School bus incident draws complaint Spraying incident in Howard is being described as racial.

December 18, 1991|By Norris P. West and Alisa Samuels | Norris P. West and Alisa Samuels,Evening Sun Staff

The mother of a Glenwood Middle School student says she has filed complaints against a white seventh-grade student at the school who allegedly sprayed her daughter with an aerosol can of Lysol on a school bus in an incident Howard County school officials describe as racial.

Evonnie Gbadebo of Glenelg said she filed complaints late yesterday with the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services against the boy.

The boy was suspended from school for two days and his bus privileges revoked until January, according to a school official.

Gbadebo's daughter, 14, said yesterday that the incident occurred Dec. 4 shortly after 3 p.m. when she was riding a public school bus home from Glenwood Middle.

She said the boy, who sits behind her on the bus, reached around her with a can of Lysol and sprayed it on her coat.

She said she later learned that the boy had told other children that "there's a black girl on the bus . . . who stinks, and I'm going to spray her with Lysol."

Glenwood Middle immediately suspended the boy from school and from riding the bus. But Gbadebo complained that school officials and law enforcement authorities were slow to address her concerns about the school's racial climate.

She said she was upset that School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey would not meet with her immediately after she told other officials what had happened to her daughter.

Kathleen Griffin, the school system's director of human relations, said she scheduled a meeting between Hickey and Gbadebo last Friday, but that Gbadebo refused to attend.

Griffin said Hickey has "an open-door policy" for parents, but was unable to meet immediately with Gbadebo because he is trying to cope with reductions in state funding.

Griffin said she classified the incident as racially motivated and said the school took appropriate action by suspending the boy from school and from riding the bus after meeting with him and his mother. She said school officials are concerned about race relations at Glenwood Middle and Glenelg High because of the recent presence of Ku Klux Klan members in the western county.

"A lot of these attitudes come from the home," Griffin said. "This parent [of the boy] acknowledged that, because of the behavior of her son, that she had not done the kind of job at home she hoped she had done."

Gbadebo said she was also angry that police did not file assault charges against the boy. She said an officer called her last night to tell her that the boy is being charged with a race, religious and ethnic violation. That could not be immediately confirmed by police.

The incident apparently occurred within hours of a racial assault on a bus in Baltimore, in which a black woman said she and other passengers were verbally harassed by nine white males of high school age while on the No. 27 state Mass Transit Administration bus.

In that incident, Kelly Gumbs, a sales associate, said she was sitting in the front of the bus reading a newspaper when the students boarded the bus near Mount Washington and, in a rowdy fashion, began poking fun at blacks.

"How many chicken bones [blacks] do we have on the bus now," one of the group's leaders asked, Gumbs said. "Five or six," was the response.

"You want to go back to Africa?" Gumbs, who wears braids, said the youths asked her.

The youths said the best part of the ABC mini-series "Roots" was when Kunta Kinte's foot was cut off, Gumbs said.

Although no one was attacked physically, Gumbs said, "I was very upset."

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