Sher­iff’s of­fice in­ves­ti­gat­ing as­sault at QACHS

Record Observer - - News - By HAN­NAH COMBS hcombs@kibay­times.com

CEN­TRE­VILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Sher­iff’s Of­fice is in­ves­ti­gat­ing an at­tack that oc­curred at Queen Anne’s County High School Thurs­day, Feb. 9. One stu­dent was in­jured; an­other is fac­ing as­sault charges.

A video of the at­tack, re­leased on so­cial me­dia, shows stu­dents walk­ing in the lobby of Queen Anne’s County High School, ap­par­ently chang­ing classes. A stu­dent wear­ing a green, hooded sweat­shirt comes up be­hind an­other stu­dent and grabs the back of his sweat­shirt, pulling him to the floor. Hold­ing on to se­cond stu­dent’s sweat­shirt or hair with one hand, the first stu­dent pro­ceeds to punch the se­cond stu­dent in the face about a dozen times, shout­ing about be­ing called a racial slur, then he stomps the boy on the floor and walks away.

The whole in­ci­dent, from the time the stu­dent was pulled to the floor un­til the at­tacker walked away, oc­curred in un­der 16 sec­onds.

Stu­dents said the in­ci­dent hap­pened af­ter the pair ex­changed words in gui­tar class. They said the boy who was beaten was play­ing his gui­tar while the teacher was speak­ing and the other boy told him to shut up, us­ing pro­fan­ity. The boy play­ing the gui­tar re­sponded by call­ing the other stu­dent the “N” word, class­mates said. Both were ru­mored to be ninth-graders.

A state­ment from the Queen Anne’s County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion re­ferred to the in­ci­dent as “an al­ter­ca­tion” and said school of­fi­cials called 911. The stu­dent who was beaten was taken to Queen Anne’s County Emer­gency Cen­ter for treat­ment and re­leased later Thurs­day, they said.

“The stu­dent was con­scious and alert dur­ing this iso­lated in­ci­dent, which is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Queen Anne’s County Sher­iff’s Of­fice,” the state­ment said.

In­terim Su­per­in­ten­dent of Schools Gre­gor y Pilewski said, “The safety, se­cu­rity and well-be­ing of all of our stu­dents is our num­ber one pri­or­ity.”

QACHS Prin­ci­pal Dr. An­gela Holocker did not re­turn calls for com­ment.

In the joint state­ment from the school board and the sher­iff’s of­fice, Sher­iff Gary Hoff­man said, “The goal of the sher­iff’s of­fice is to con­tinue to as­sist the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion in pro­vid­ing the safest en­vi­ron­ment for all stu­dents.”

No in­for­ma­tion about the ac­tual in­ci­dent was pro­vided by the sher­iff’s of­fice. Dfc. Ge­orge Sewell is the school re­source of­fi­cer sta­tioned at the high school.

Par­ents and oth­ers com­mu­nity mem­bers took to so­cial me­dia Thurs­day evening to ex­press their con­cern over events. Some had seen the video; oth­ers hadn’t. Some had heard the stu­dent was knocked un­con­scious; some had heard he was in a coma.

One par­ent said they saw the in­jured boy on the floor as they were bring­ing their child back to school af­ter a doc­tor’s ap­point­ment. “The prin­ci­pal was on the floor, as was the school nurse ren­der­ing aid. The stu­dent was not mov­ing and clearly un­con­scious. His face was bloody, and he was not mov­ing,” the par­ent said.

Even­tu­ally some­one claim­ing to be fa­mil­iar with the sub­jects in­volved posted on the Res­i­dents of Cen­tre­ville group page that re­ports of the boy be­ing in a coma were false, but that the boy had suf­fered a bro­ken nose.

The school state­ment said the boy was con­scious, but no of­fi­cial re­port as to his in­juries was re­leased.

Many of the com­menters were out­raged by the fact the en­tire at­tack was videoed and posted on so­cial me­dia, as if it were some kind of badge of honor. Many wanted to see the videog­ra­pher pun­ished, too, say­ing he or she was ob­vi­ously in­volved in what they called a pre­med­i­tated at­tack.

Many par­ents were up­set they hadn’t re­ceived no­tice of the in­ci­dent.

Di­rec­tor of Op­er­a­tions Sid Pin­der said, his­tor­i­cally, fights or in­ci­dents of a sim­i­lar na­ture are not re­ported to par­ents us­ing the Alert So­lu­tions No­ti­fi­ca­tion Sys­tem, which is typ­i­cally used in the event of any emer­gency or school clos­ing. The only par­ents of­fi­cially no­ti­fied were those of the par­ties in­volved.

Pin­der was able to ver­ify the video re­leased on so­cial me­dia did not come from the school nor was it au­tho­rized to be re­leased. The school did, in fact, have a cam­era in the lo­ca­tion where the as­sault oc­curred and that footage was and con­tin­ues to be re­viewed by school of­fi­cials, said Pin­der.

Ac­cord­ing to QACPS dis­ci­pline code, a phys­i­cal at­tack on a stu­dent may re­sult in con­se­quences rang­ing from a loss of priv­i­leges and af­ter-school de­ten­tion to sus­pen­sion with rec­om­men­da­tion for fur­ther ac­tion.

The school and sher­iff’s of­fice are work­ing to­gether co­op­er­a­tively and a con­clu­sion of the sher­iff’s of­fice in­ves­ti­ga­tion — should it be forth­com­ing — does not mean the in­ves­ti­ga­tion by QACPS is com­plete, said Pin­der. There are nu­mer­ous de­tails, in­clud­ing fol­low­ing up with stu­dents and staff to com­pletely as­cer­tain the events sur­round­ing the in­ci­dent, Pin­der added.

Ear­lier in the week, the high school’s prin­ci­pal had an­nounced her res­ig­na­tion, and a let­ter from Holocker went home to par­ents Thurs­day evening say­ing her last day will be Feb. 28. Though the as­sault hap­pened the same day the let­ter was sent, the two events are un­re­lated.

Pilewski did send a let­ter to par­ents Fri­day, men­tion­ing the Thurs­day in­ci­dent, but fo­cus­ing on the mul­ti­ple changes in school ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Ed­i­tor An­gela Price also con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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