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Boonsboro High School secretary fired

September 24, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

BOONSBORO - A Boonsboro High School secretary who told authorities about an alleged sex and alcohol scandal involving a female teacher's aide and a male student has been fired.

Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr. said the Washington County Board of Education on Tuesday upheld his recommendation to fire Deanna Casto.

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Casto's attorney, Kenneth Mackley, blasted the decision, saying it was retaliation for his client's whistle-blowing.

"What was done in this case is one of the most outrageous instances of treating someone badly. Mr. Bartlett is an arrogant and domineering man and he does not have the slightest concept of fair play," Mackley said.

Bartlett said he could not comment on exactly why Casto was fired.

He also declined to comment on Mackley's criticism, except to say: "I think we've certainly treated her like all of our employees."

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Bartlett acknowledged that some believe he has been too harsh on Casto, but said the fact that the school board upheld the termination "speaks for itself."

In May, former teacher's aide Brenda Sue Hargett was charged with contributing to the delinquency of three male high school students.

She was accused of having sex with two of them and giving alcohol to all three.

Hargett, 35, of 9502 Crystal Falls Drive, Hagerstown, was fired from the school shortly after and is scheduled to stand trial Oct. 6.

Hargett told Casto in January about her interest in a 10th-grade student, according to charging documents.

Hargett told her friend she felt "obligated" to have sex with the boy in March, charging documents alleged.

Casto told police she saw another boy, who was in 11th grade, drink part of Hargett's champagne and orange juice drink, after a high school basketball game in February, court records alleged.

Hargett's lawyer, Timothy T. Conlon of Frederick, Md., said he believed the school board acted appropriately in upholding Casto's termination.

Conlon has put county officials on notice that Hargett might sue. Bartlett declined to comment on the possibility of a lawsuit.

Last fall, Hargett asked her supervisors for help "dealing with male students touching her inappropriately and making untoward sexual references and sexual advances to her," according to Conlon's notification letter.

The school failed to protect Hargett, the letter alleged.

If convicted, Hargett faces a maximum of three years in prison and a $2,500 fine for each of the three charges. She wasn't charged with sex offenses because the age of consent in Maryland is 16.

Hargett's defense against the criminal charges is that she was not responsible because of her mental state, Conlon said.

She suffered from stress, depression and she was emotionally fragile, he said.

Bartlett said he believes the incident was an isolated one but troubling for the school system.

"It is a very, very serious situation. It cuts at the very fiber that we're all about in education. We're an organization that wants trust and confidence between adults and children," Bartlett said.

The decision to fire Casto will be appealed to the Maryland State Board of Education, Mackley said.

Casto, who is married and lives at 201 S. Mechanic St., Sharpsburg, is looking for secretarial work, Mackley said.

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