For the second time in less than four days, a young female teacher at Carroll County's Francis Scott Key High School has been arrested and charged with having inappropriate sexual contact with teen-age boys she met at school.
Police say that Tracie L. Mokry, 21, a student teacher, invited seven male students to her mother's Westminster home for a party the last weekend in April.
Over two consecutive nights, police allege, Mokry drank alcohol with the boys and kissed, fondled and had sexual intercourse with a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old, according to court documents.
She was arrested shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday and released from the Carroll County Detention Center in Westminster on $25,000 bail.
School officials - still stunned by allegations that a permanent substitute teacher at Key had sex with eight male students - were forced yesterday to explain another allegation of child sexual abuse by a county educator.
"It was shocking last week," interim Carroll Schools Superintendent Charles I. Ecker said yesterday at a news conference at the school system's administrative offices in Westminster.
"I really can't think of another word. It's shocking. It's disappointing. It really has affected the Francis Scott Key community," he said.
Two days earlier, Ecker stood on the same podium flanked by the same law enforcement officers and school administrators to answer questions about Kimberly L. Merson, 24 a substitute teacher and cheerleading coach who has worked at Key for two years.
Merson, of Union Bridge, was arrested Saturday on 15 counts of child sexual abuse and other lesser charges. She told police she had provided alcohol to eight boys, 15 to 17, invited them to her home, stripped and danced for them, fondled them and had sexual intercourse and oral sex with them, according to court documents.
Police said that some of the instances involved two or more boys at the same time.
Authorities were quick to point out that the two cases involve different individuals and are unrelated - except for the Union Bridge school link.
"There is no indication that other teachers are involved, and there is no indication that these two teachers were involved with each other," said Sgt. James DeWees, supervisor of the child abuse and sexual assault unit of the Maryland State Police Westminster barracks.
"From what we can tell, they didn't even know each other. It's just a coincidence that they worked at the same school."
Mokry's arrest came less than four days before she is to graduate from Western Maryland College. A 1997 graduate of Westminster High School, Mokry finished a 13-week stint May 11 as a student teacher in the art departments of Key and Oklahoma Road Middle School in Eldersburg.
She earned dean's list honors at the college and had accepted a job teaching art at Carroll's Century High School, following in the footsteps of her mother, who retired in February 2000 after 37 years as an art teacher in county schools. The new high school is to open in Eldersburg in August.
Western Maryland College provost H. Samuel Case said yesterday that Mokry's arrest would not interfere with her graduation from the school Saturday.
"If she has enough credits and her grades are above a 2.0, she would get her diploma," Case said. "People are innocent until proven guilty."
The Carroll schools chief said that Mokry's job offer will be honored or rescinded depending on the outcome of the case against her. School officials had not performed a background check on Mokry, who received college credit rather than pay for her work in the school system.
Police said they heard of the allegations against Mokry on Monday during interviews with Key students as part of the investigation for the Merson case.
Investigators spoke with Mokry on Tuesday at the Westminster police barracks, where she initially denied "any liaison with students outside of the school," according to the criminal complaint. But later in the interview, Mokry acknowledged "communicating with male students through her personal computer and that some of that communication involved talk of sexual matters," court documents say.
Investigators also learned that Taneytown police reported finding Mokry and one of her students about 1 a.m. March 31 parked outside a convenience store or shopping center, DeWees said. He added that the juvenile was given an alcohol citation.
Police said one boy with whom Mokry is alleged to have had sex told them he attended the Friday night party at Mokry's home, where she provided "large quantities of alcoholic beverages." When he went into her bedroom to lie down after quite a bit of drinking, Mokry came in and initiated sexual contact, according to court records.
The 16-year-old boy accurately described the inside of Mokry's home and identified physical characteristics about her that investigators confirmed, the criminal complaint says.
On Wednesday, police interviewed a 17-year-old who was in Mokry's art class. He told investigators he had attended the Saturday night party at Mokry's house during the same weekend as his younger friend. According to court documents, the boy was lying on Mokry's bed when she joined him.
School officials dispatched additional counselors yesterday to Francis Scott Key and Oklahoma Road Middle in case students need someone to talk to or answer questions.
"There's a sense of betrayal [among Key students], and we're helping them to understand that this is not a normal thing that happens in life," said Cynthia Little, Carroll's director of pupil services.
"We explain that the school system is a microcosm of society and that some of the things that happen in society unfortunately sometimes happen in our school system."
The investigations will continue. "We have a boatload to do on both of these cases," said DeWees.
If convicted, Mokry could be sentenced to 15 years in prison on each of the two counts of child sexual abuse and lesser penalties for the counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Sun staff writers Maria Blackburn and Brenda J. Buote contributed to this article.