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August 11, 2010|By Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun

A staff member at City College has been charged with sexual abuse related to encounters with a 17-year-old student at the high school dating to last year, according to court records.

Ryan Marcus Coleman, 34, of New Northwood in Baltimore was arrested and charged last month with sex abuse of a minor, fourth-degree sex offense and second-degree assault in connection with interactions he had with a City College student on the school grounds, according to charging documents filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

Coleman, who is described in court documents as a hall monitor and a "Dean of Discipline," is accused of taking a 17-year-old student into his office between December 2009 and March, where he would "start to rub her back and side, ask her if she had a boyfriend and if she liked older men and was sexually active," charging documents said.

Police received a call on May 3 for possible sexual abuse of the student, documents said.

A week later, court documents said, the student was interviewed at the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, where she said that Coleman had on "several occasions" touched her on her sides, back, inner thigh and buttocks. The student also said during follow-up interviews that Coleman took her out of class and brought her to his office. The Baltimore Sun does not identify victims of sexual abuse.

Coleman was arrested July 8 and released the next day on $10,000 bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 19.

Coleman could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and no attorney is listed in court records as representing him. A woman who answered the door at his home declined to comment Tuesday.

Michael Sarbanes, a spokesman for city schools, said that Coleman was not a full-time employee of the school system but was hired last year as a temporary employee by City College. His employment ended in May, Sarbanes said.

Sarbanes said the school system cannot comment specifically on any investigations but added, "We take any allegation of misconduct extremely seriously. We investigate the allegation and how it was handled by the school and the system."

According to the school's alumni association records, Coleman graduated from City College in 1993 and was the president of the Baltimore City College Alumni Association in 2004.

He also ran for the Baltimore City Council seat in District 4 in 2007. City Councilman Bill Henry, who won the race for that district, said Wednesday that he only knew Coleman from the campaign trail.

"He seemed like a perfectly enthusiastic and decent young man, who was trying to step up in public service," Henry said. "And if the allegations are true, it's a shame."

Coleman came in third out of nine candidates in the District 4 race, and in a 2007 interview with The Baltimore Sun, he pointed to crime as his platform issue.

Coleman also worked for Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger — a City College graduate — when he left his post as Baltimore County executive to run for Congress.

Coleman had volunteered on the congressman's campaign and was hired in 2003 as a constituent service and outreach representative, a position he held for a little more than a year, according to the congressman's spokeswoman, Heather Molino.

"If these allegations are true, it's really terrible," Molino said Wednesday. "With so much going on in this world, in school the kids need to be protected."

A letter obtained by The Baltimore Sun shows that a City College alumni association member notified city officials as well as city schools CEO Andres Alonso about the sex abuse allegations against Coleman last month.

Neil Bernstein, board member emeritus of the Baltimore City College Alumni Association, inquired in the letter about the allegations against Coleman. Bernstein said that Coleman had previously served as the association's president "is what makes it even more heartbreaking."

In an interview, Bernstein called Coleman a "protege" and "friend" of City's principal, Tim Dawson, and said that Dawson hired Coleman as a contractor last school year.

Several attempts to reach Dawson were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who was sent a copy of the letter, called the sex abuse allegations "outrageous." City College is located in her jurisdiction, and she has long been active with the school.

Clarke said it was best that Coleman is no longer interacting with students. "Just get him out and protect the children," she said. "I'm glad to see that's been done."

Bernstein said he believed the sex abuse allegations against a staff member shed light on an already dwindling faith in the school's principal among some alumni association members.

"This certainly didn't reflect well on the principal's ability to make a personnel decision," said Bernstein.

Administrators union President Jimmy Gittings said he could not comment specifically on the allegations but added, "I have full and complete confidence in the principal that he would have taken the appropriate actions" if a staff member behaved improperly.

The sexual abuse allegations against the City College staff member are coming to light as questions have surfaced about Dawson's status as the City principal.

But Gittings said that no decisions have been made about Dawson and that he would be meeting with Alonso later this week "to discuss what is best for the principal, Tim Dawson, and the students at City College."

City College is the third-oldest public high school in the nation and among the most prestigious in the city. It is a nationally acclaimed, Blue Ribbon-designated school and was ranked 547 out of about 1,600 schools this year in Newsweek's annual "America's Best High Schools" list.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.