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MD- Harford teacher found dead blamed sex charges on failing grade

12-23-2008 Maryland:

The Harford County teacher found dead about a month after being charged with sexually abusing a student told a friend that the girl was trying to get revenge for a failing grade, said Sgt. 1st Class LeRoy Strickland, the friend.

Brian Norman, a social studies teacher at North Harford High School in Pylesville, was found dead in his home in the 1600 block of Denise Drive in Forest Hill this past weekend from a gunshot wound to the head, and authorities have ruled the death a suicide, said Monica Worrell, spokeswoman for the Harford County Sheriff's Office.

The 34-year-old teacher was arrested on Nov. 16 after being accused of allegedly slapping a 16-year-old female student on the buttocks after class and making death threats the same day to school employees.

Bruce Smith, the prosecutor handling the case, said he had never heard about the failing grade that Norman blamed for the allegations.

Norman also had attempted suicide Oct. 27, when the case was beginning, because, he said in court, "of his involvement with two students at North Harford High School and what he had done with him," Smith said.

"He already admitted at that point in time some culpability for these acts," the prosecutor said.

But Strickland, who served with Norman in Afghanistan from February 2006 to May 2007, did not believe the charges.

"These allegations against him, I don't believe it," he said. "All he could talk about [in Afghanistan] was wanting to get back home because he wanted to teach."

Strickland, who lives in the Washington, D.C., area, said he spoke on the phone with Norman two weeks ago. The teacher was upbeat and said the student had made up the sexual abuse allegations to get back at him for failing her, Strickland said.

Police have said Norman sent text messages to the student, and was admitted to a psychiatric facility and released.

Norman was charged with sex abuse of a minor, fourth-degree sex offense, second-degree assault, possession of child pornography and threatening school employees.

After his arrest, he was released on $25,000 bond.

Teri Kranefeld, school system spokeswoman, said Monday that Norman had been on administrative leave since October, but she declined further comment.

On the Web site, there were 59 comments Monday afternoon about Norman's death.

One post under the name "Pauline K" read: "I worked in the same school as Brian Norman about 8-9 years ago when he first began teaching and before he served in Iraq. He was very enthusiastic although I have to admit he also had a lot of anger in him."

Strickland said Army mates had nicknamed Norman "Jimmy Neutron" because he could quickly learn and teach new things.

Norman was awarded the Bronze Star and Combat Infantry Badge after coming under fire multiple times in Afghanistan, Strickland said.

..News Source.. by Mike Silvestri, Staff Writer

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