All sixth-grade boys at Hampstead Hill Middle School -- more than 100 of them -- were suspended yesterday after a disruption that followed a fight between two of them.
But the mass suspension ordered by an assistant principal was criticized last night by Dr. Walter G. Amprey, the Baltimore city school superintendent, who urged that all students return to school today.
Dr. Amprey said the fight involved two sixth-grade boys, one of whom apparently had a knife but did not use it.
The fight was broken up by the school staff, but the majority of the boys in the sixth grade were disruptive when they returned to classrooms, and that prompted the suspensions.
"The fight was just between two boys at first, but you know how with middle school boys, friends might have a tendency to get involved," said Dr. Amprey.
The fight occurred just two days after Expedito "Pedro" Lugo, who was beaten with a baseball bat in Patterson Park by three youths, one of them a Hampstead Hill student, made an emotional visit to the school.
The beating, in which Mr. Lugo was nearly killed, unleashed a storm of criticism in the surrounding neighborhood about rowdiness by Hampstead Hill Middle School students.
After yesterday's incident, an assistant principal at the East Baltimore school, at the urging of several teachers, decided to send the approximately 105 sixth-grade boys home with a letter instructing them to return Monday with their parents.
The letter "in effect instructed the boys to bring their parents to school on Monday, and it either implied or said not to come back until Monday," Dr. Amprey said. "But I don't know for sure, because I have not seen the letter."
But Dr. Amprey said he was "not happy with what happened" in the suspension of the entire class and urged the boys to return to school this morning.
"I don't want youngsters out of school, that's the bottom line," he said. "An entire class of boys, we can find a better way to deal with this than that."
Dr. Amprey said he will be at Hampstead Hill Middle School this morning to address the situation. He said it was not necessary for parents to come with their children this morning, but if parents do come, he will speak with them.
"There have been concerns at Hampstead Hill that date from before my appointment," he said. "The school has been taking a black eye, the students have been taking a black eye, and the school system has been taking a black eye. And I think we can demonstrate that school is a lot more normal than most people think."