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

Howard County police have filed a juvenile complaint against a 13-year-old white Glenwood Middle School student after a black girl said he sprayed her with an aerosol can of Lysol on a school bus, in an incident authorities describe as racial.

Police filed a racial, religious and ethnic harassment complaint against the boy Monday with the state Department of Juvenile Services. Evonnie Gbadebo of Glenelg, the girl's mother, filed an assault complaint against the boy with the department late yesterday.

The boy, a seventh-grade student, was suspended from school for two days and his bus privileges were revoked until January, a school official said. An eighth-grade boy, who was not named in either complaint, also was suspended, said Glenwood Middle Principal Vincent F. Catania.

Gbadebo's daughter, 14, said yesterday that the incident occurred shortly after 3 p.m. Dec. 4, when she was riding a public school bus to her Glenelg home from Glenwood Middle. She said the boy, sitting behind her on the bus, reached around her with a can of Lysol and sprayed it on her coat.

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

Glenwood Middle immediately suspended the boy from school and from riding the bus. But Gbadebo said 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 Gbadebo refused to attend.

Griffin said Hickey has "an open-door policy" for parents but was unable to meet immediately with Gbadebo because he was trying to cope with cuts 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 that part of the 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."

The spraying occurred within hours of a similar incident 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?" Gumbs said one of the group asked. "Five or six," was the response.

"You want to go back to Africa?" Gumbs, who wears braids, quoted one youth as saying.

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."

Helen Dale, an MTA spokeswoman, said, "We'll be looking into it. . . . I know we're sorry it happened."

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