Justice

Baltimore School Officer Slaps, Kicks High School Student

CREDIT: CBS News/WJZ

Video footage of a Baltimore school police officer kicking a student and slapping him repeatedly has sparked outrage among parents and administrators.

In the video, the officer swears at a Reach Partnership high school student while slapping the teen’s face three times. Then he kicks the teen against a wall. A second officer makes no effort to stop him.

The school only learned of the incident because WJZ, a local CBS affiliate, alerted officials. Administrators have not confirmed that the victim is a student, although the person who recorded the incident says the teen does attend the school. Little is known about what happened before and after the violent encounter, but parents and school officials agree that the officer’s actions were inappropriate. He is currently on administrative leave, as well as the chief of Baltimore’s school police, Marshall Goodwin.

“I was totally appalled at what I saw today,” Chief School Supports Officer Karl Perry told WJZ. “I’m a parent, and I’m totally appalled at what I saw in that video. No matter what the circumstances are, I am totally appalled.”

Perry was appointed to the position last June and criticized Baltimore’s school system for its “soft code of conduct.” In October, Perry announced his intentions to “return to zero-tolerance enforcement of my expectations for appropriate behaviors.” One of his approaches is to teach students to act as mediators between peers while encouraging them to take ownership of their education in the classroom.

But lawyer and writer for the Coalition to Reform School Discipline Nicole Joseph says Baltimore schools are heavily policed. Nearly 16 percent of juvenile arrests in Baltimore occur in schools. And the officer in the latest video is not the first to use violence against students. In January 2015, three middle school girls were punched and beaten with a baton. One of girls had her head bashed open. The three girls were ultimately detained at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center.

Watch it here:

“A return to the “zero tolerance” philosophy of discipline championed in the Sun article is not a path to improving school climate, nor is it consistent with the state school board’s guidance for school discipline,” Joseph wrote in the Baltimore Sun. “Instead, it feeds the school-to-prison pipeline and creates a greater likelihood that at-risk students, including those with disabilities, will be excluded from school.”

Similar videos have surfaced in other parts of the country, illustrating how students are aggressively policed and forced into the school-to-prison pipeline. When kids are vilified and arrested for minor disciplinary infractions, they walk away with long-lasting damage that impedes their ability to learn and increases the likelihood of entering the criminal justice system later on.

This post previously stated the offending officer was the chief of Baltimore’s school police. It has been corrected to say that the chief was not responsible, but was placed on administrative leave.