School officials were visibly upset at a press conference Thursday afternoon addressing the arrest of a English teacher accused of having sex with three students.
Jeffrey Robert Sears Jr., 29, of Glen Burnie, was and charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse of a minor, multiple counts of fourth-degree sex offense, third-degree sex offense, multiple counts of perverted practice, sexual solicitation of a minor and multiple assault charges. Sears, who began teaching at the school in 2006, previously was the coach of the junior varsity boys basketball team.
"As a leader of Glen Burnie High School and a leader of students, of course this sickens me," said principal Vickie Plitt, who acknowledged she was taking the news hard.
"As principal of Glen Burnie High School, one of my responsibilities is to protect my students," she said, holding back tears.
Sears is accused of having sexual relationships with three girls ranging in age from 15 to 16 while they were students at Glen Burnie High. Police said the incidents reportedly took place both on and off campus, during and after school hours, between November 2009 and October 2011.
Anne Arundel County Public Schools Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell said two of the girls involved were former students of Sears and one was not. None of them were in his English class during the time of the incident.
"When the first allegation against Mr. Sears arose, we immediately removed him from the classroom and placed him in a position in which he had absolutely no contact with children," Maxwell said. "With the filing of these charges, I will be recommending to the board that he be suspended without pay pending terminination from employment with Anne Arundel County Public Schools."
The allegations began in November when an assistant coach at Glen Burnie notified Plitt about a possible sexual relationship between Sears and a student. Plitt then notifice the school system which contacted social services. School officials did not say what sport the assistant coach was involved with.
Board of Education President Patricia R. Nalley said news of the incident made her "sick to [her] stomach."
"Sadly, we have seen this all too often across our nation, but the idea that someone could take advantage of a vulnerable child whose future they have been entrusted with cuts me to the core," Nalley said.
Both Plitt and Maxwell spoke of the "extensive" training that teachers receive regarding inappropriate interaction with students.
"I don't think any person can rightly say that they haven't received the information," Maxwell said.
Plitt said the school is in close contact with each of the victims' families.
"It's time for Glen Burnie High School to heal and move forward," she said.