Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Court master blasts principal's handling of racial attack

Eric Hartley:

Meade High School administrators botched their investigation of a racially motivated attack at the school in January, failing to protect the victim from a severe beating and hampering the prosecution of the lone student charged, a Circuit Court master said yesterday.

Master Erica J. Wolfe, a judicial officer who oversees juvenile and family cases, said she felt bad for the victim but had no choice in issuing an acquittal.

Before announcing the verdict, she criticized Meade Principal Joan A. Valentine and other school officials in a blistering speech, calling their documentation of the fight - including written statements from witnesses that didn't have the witnesses' names - "virtually useless."

The 17-year-old Meade senior, who is white, was ambushed as he walked down a school hallway during a break in exams, prosecutors said. He was beaten badly, suffering 13 knots on his head.

A group of 10 to 15 African-American students surrounded the Meade High School senior, many jumping up and down and chanting, "White boy, white boy, I go!" before several started punching him, a prosecutor said.

The attack appeared to be random.

Assistant State's Attorney Michael Bergeson said Principal Valentine refused to give him the names of those witnesses until she was ordered to on Tuesday by Master Wolfe.

Mr. Bergeson, a longtime juvenile court prosecutor, said he'd never before had a school official refuse to give him names of witnesses.

"The investigation conducted in this matter was appalling," Master Wolfe said. "It is inconceivable to me that anybody who has the responsibility for pursuing this would accept a document that's undated, unnamed, unsigned. The lack of common sense is utterly appalling.

"The school fails him in not protecting him from the fight in the first place and fails him again in not pursuing it properly," she said. "That's an indictment of the school."

Ms. Valentine and Assistant Principal Bonita Sims, who conducted the investigation, couldn't be reached for comment.

A reporter asking for Ms. Valentine at the school this morning was told she would have no comment.

A receptionist said school system officials told Meade staff to direct all inquiries to school headquarters.

Schools Superintendent Eric J. Smith said last night he hadn't heard about the case, but will look into it.

"Any time there's a concern raised by the courts, we certainly will take that very seriously," Dr. Smith said. "I have a lot of respect for Joan Valentine. I feel she runs a good school. She's done a good job in moving Meade High School forward."

Ms. Valentine, Ms. Sims and the school system official who signed off on their investigation are all African American, prosecutors noted. Mr. Bergeson said the victim testified racially tinged fights aren't unusual at Meade.

Police to review school fight probe

Our say: Schools must take hard look at Meade principal's actions


At 4:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, if a Columbine happens at this school in the future, we will all know why.

At 1:30 AM, Anonymous Meade Student said...

Valentine needs to go

At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

she needs to go, shes not fit to run that school

At 3:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to that school. I am a white student and was always in fear of going to school on a daily basis with thought that something like this would happen. Joan Valentine is not fit to run a book club let alone a public high school.

At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i went to this school and at the time i attended i was dating someone and we are both white. We both got suspended for standing outside of the school hugging eachother. Now i dont know about any one else but i know that there is and could have been much worse that we could have been doinng outside of that school. ms valentine suspended us right on the spot. No warining No write no nothing. we just went straight to suspension. My boyfriend got five days and i recieved three.

At 11:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to Meade in the late 80's and early 90's. In the first three semesters we had 3 students murdered, including Michael Thomas, who was killed for his sneakers. The school should be burned to the ground, it's a disgrace that a school located on a military base is so terrible. It was frequently targeted by blacks on a regular basis. I was once disciplined by a "Coach Wills" after being randomly attacked by two big black kids for "starting a fight." After complaining to the administration (who did nothing) she gave me a "C" for the semester in gym class. When I was a freshman we had 18 year old 6 foot black guys from the projects in gym class who had failed 8th grade 4 times who could slam dunk and hated white people. The gym teachers looked the other way as we were mugged for change so they could get sodas from the machines in the locker room. (need those new football uniforms somehow!) Meade High presents an argument for going back to segregated schools...

At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An argument for going back to segregated schools? How silly. Basically it sounds like the school needs a different principle and clearer disciplinary rules. And racially biased attacks on students (or any other attacks) should be handled fairly. Period - whether the victim is white or black.

At 10:02 PM, Anonymous Meade Student said...

I Currently go to this school and i think that it still the same drug dealing,sex,racial issue,etc. i'm latino and i'm always seem to be in trouble even thought i'm a honor roll student

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