Her voice trembled and her eyes occasionally filled with tears. But the 14-year-old girl's hands were knotted in fists when she declared, "I'm going to see it through. My reputation is at stake and so is Mr. Soule's."
The girl is a student at Poolesville High School. Her parents say she had sexual relations with her 29-year-old math teacher, John A. Soule. Last month Montgomery County police arrested the teacher on a misdemeanor sex offense charge after her parents hired a provate detective to follow their daughter.
The girl has since retained her own lawyer to fight her parents' contention she has sex with Soule.
In an hour-long interview yesterday during a lunch period at the school, the girl said "the whole thing is an awful mistake that's ruining people's lives."
She denied having relations with the popular teacher. She said Soule was a "dear friend" who watched Redskins football games on television with her, taught her the Latin Hustle and other disco dances an offered her "freedom" from what she called "strict and unhappy" life at home.
On etuesday School Superintendent Charles M. Bernardo recommended that the school board fore Soule for insubordination and misconduct. The teacher faces trial on the ses charge in General District Court Feb. 22.
The 14-year-old said yesterday she originally told county police detectives that she and Soule "made love several times" at the teacher's Gaithersburg home. She said she was confused and frightened during the police interview and made a false statement in order to "get the whole thing over with."
The girl said she was angry when she learned that her father had hired the provate detective.
The girl said she read a newspaper article several months ago about children hiring lawyers to defend themselves against their parents. She said she retained a lawyer through the state Public Defender's Office because she thought she might be charged with perjury if "I ended up in court telling the truth instead of what I told the police."
She said she has also talked to the county's Department of Social Services in hope of being placed in a foster home. "I think me and my family are almost finished," she said.
The girl said her family -- her father, stepmother and a younger sister -- has moved four times in the last four years. At Poolesville, she said, she finally met someone who was "able to understand what I was going through."
"Mr. Soule is the kind of teacher who can make people happy," she said. "He can make even algebra fun."
As school weeks went by, she said, she increasingly went to Soule during school hours to discuss homework and her family life.
"I knew he was a good dancer and he told me about the first floor of his town house," she said. "It's got flashing lights and psychedelic posters and looks just like a disco.
"I wanted to learn how to dance and I wanted to see his place," she went on. "So I went to a friend's house and called him and asked him to pick me up on Highway 107."
The girl said that was the first of three occasions she visited Soule in late November. Each visit began with the teacher picking her up at prearranged locations, she said, and consisted of either television watching. dancing or talking.
The girl described as a forgery a "love letter" purportedly written by her and addressed to Soule that circulated widely around the school.
Soule described the letter as a "total fraud" yesterday. He declined to comment on why he allowed the girl to visit his home without her father's knowledge.
Other students interviewed yesterday said it is not unusual to visit Poolesville teachers at their homes. "It's a social thing more than anything else," said Corney Sears, editor of the student newspaper. "We eat dinner sometimes at teachers' houses. Poolesville isn't exactly a hot spot. There isn't a whole lot to do around here."