Edmonton Journal

Wednesday 15 March 2000

Teacher in the clear as sex abuse allegations recanted by students

Daily Telegraph

Seven pupils aged 11 or 12 have been arrested and charged with making false statements to police after they accused a gym teacher of sexual abuse because he shouted at them in a lesson.

Ronald Heller, a teacher for 32 years, was told to leave Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown, Md., immediately after the allegations last month.

Six girls and a boy had concocted a story that Heller, who had a reputation as a disciplinarian, had followed girls into a changing room, hugged them, stared at their chests and grabbed at least one pupil's buttocks.

The police were called. While the details were vague, the pupils were initially believed. Sgt Richard Cave said: "They were all honour roll students, very involved in the school. We had no reason to doubt them."

As questioning continued, the story began to unravel. The boy was the first one to admit it was false.

Stan Schaub, a school administrator, said the boy was told Heller could go to prison.

"I just don't think he wanted that on his head."

Eventually, every pupil recanted and some burst into tears.

Last week, Heller offered to take a lie detector test to prove his innocence and police told him the investigation was over.

Rosalva Rosas, the school principal, sent a letter to all parents stating that Heller had been "fully exonerated" and would be "welcomed as a friend and a colleague.

"I want to emphasize how terrible the consequences have been because of the lies and the subsequent rumours."

Paul Kemp, Heller's lawyer, said the teacher had spent nearly a month "at home, staring at the walls and wondering how he got into this maelstrom."