Nearly 100 Glen Burnie High students joined in what one school administrator termed a racially motivated brawl in the school's cafeteria Wednesday after a white student struck a black student with a school bag and refused to apologize.
Assistant principal Jerry Marks said a ninth-grader was hit earlier in the day by a bag thrown by an 11th-grader. He said the 11th-grader, upset over argument with his girlfriend, threw his bag "several feet when it hit the foot of a black student a distance away."
Marks said the older boy refused to apologize, prompting a confrontation during the 11:30 a.m. lunch period. He said it took administrators at least 10 minutes to regain control.
"It turned into a black and white fight in one part of the cafeteria," Marks said yesterday. "Of course, the whole lunch period was spoiled."
The school's staff has spent much of the last two days sorting through varying accounts of the brawl, which resulted in two suspensions. Several other students were suspended for cutting class in hopes of continuing the fracas in the cafeteria.
"They wanted to be where the action is," Marks said. "We came down hard on all those people contributing to this disruption."
Teachers and staff were on alert during lunch break and dismissal yesterday to prevent a repeat of the fight. Marks said the tension may be due in part to a realignment of the school's attendance boundaries to include Freetown, a predominantly black community off Mountain Road. Those students had attended Northeast High, but now travel several miles to Glen Burnie.
Marks said the new students have yet to form a real connection to the school community. And he noted that students in previous years have attempted to distribute white supremacy literature on school grounds.
He said the 11th-grader was involved in a similar incident with a black student several weeks ago.
"I've seen hate literature in the past years," Marks said. "There are probably some students who lean in that direction, but I don't think it's organized or anything. It seems to be less so than in previous years."
While the school on Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard has an enrollment of 1,762, blacks comprise a little more than 10 percent of the student population, whites about 87 percent.
Parent groups have expressed concern this year with the lack of black cheerleaders or pompon girls at the school.
"Those are weak spots," Marks said, adding that many other groups with less visibility include black members. "We encourage students to get involved. We have Human Relations groups to improve understanding of different groups and try to give students a balanced education in classes."
Board of Education officials and school administrators are meeting this morning to discuss the incident and what to do about it. Marks said students will be warned about future brawls once administrators complete their investigations and are finished handing down punishments.
School officials did not release the names of those students involved.
"We haven't said anything to the general student body because we didn't want to add more fuel to the fire," Marks said. "Once we get all of this tacked down, we will say what has been done, without giving names, and what will be done if this happens again."