THE FACTS surrounding the Shaw Junior High school teacher's sexual affair with a 15-year-old student are disturbing enough. But the principal's and assistant principal's warm embrace of the teacher -- despite his sex offense conviction -- is equally unsettling. The teacher is now in jail. What about Shaw's leaders?

Lorenzo McCrea, Shaw's 39-year-old band instructor, repeatedly engaged in sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old student, behind the auditorium, in his home and in his car. Informed by the child that she was pregnant, Mr. McCrea provided her with money for an abortion and continued having sex with her. (A paternity test later showed him not to be the baby's father.) Confronted by Assistant Principal Wilson Morgan and the father, Mr. McCrea denied having sex with the girl. Six hours later, he returned to Mr. Morgan's office and confessed.

Mr. McCrea was arrested, pleaded guilty and was immediately incarcerated by an angry Superior Court Judge Henry Greene. During his sentencing last May, however, the judge produced supporting letters on school stationery from Shaw principal Erma M. Withers ("I have never seen a young man with the energy and patience in dealing with today's youth. He was very dynamic and . . . dependable") and Assistant Principal Morgan ("a role model for students and staff. . . . I miss Mr. McCrea! If there was any way [he] could return to Shaw, I would gladly accept him on our staff.").

Those letters from school officials who knew of Mr. McCrea's sexual involvement with a minor entrusted to his care stunned the judge, the prosecutor and, as it turns out, a number of city officials.

School board President Wilma Harvey said yesterday, "For a principal and assistant principal to uphold that kind of behavior is inexcusable. It is a display of poor judgment. They should be reprimanded." School board member Westy Byrd, who represents the Shaw area, said the actions of the principal and assistant principal actions were "wrong" and "unacceptable." Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, calling their letter-writing "not only intolerable but inexcusable," has launched a probe.

"I would gladly accept him on our staff." What values!