Amprey probes handling of assault on city teacher Victim was attacked by 4 of her students

November 05, 1993|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Staff Writer

Baltimore Superintendent Walter G. Amprey is investigating a Harlem Park Community School teacher's claims that she was assaulted by four students inside the school, then told she would be transferred for "mishandling" the incident.

In a closed session last night, Dr. Amprey and the school board questioned the principal of the Northwest Baltimore school, Wyatt Coger, about his handling of the Oct. 12 assault that sent teacher M. Winston Morris to a hospital in an ambulance.

Mrs. Morris, 53, said that four girls in her sixth-grade class attacked her about 10:30 a.m.

She was treated at Maryland General Hospital for bruises and cuts to her left eye, right arm, head, neck, knees and back, and released.

Mrs. Morris, who has taught at Harlem Park for three years, has yet to return to work. She receives physical therapy three times a week for back, neck and knee injuries and attends twice-weekly sessions with a psychologist to deal with the emotional distress the incident provoked, she said last night.

Two of the students -- ages 11 and 12 -- were arrested and charged as juveniles within a few days of the assault.

The superintendent's investigation came in response to a nine-page letter from Mrs. Morris' husband, Frank L. Morris Sr., dean of graduate studies and research at Morgan State University. He detailed the attack and his "outrage" over Mr. Coger's response.

Nobody from the school system responded in writing, Dr. and Mrs. Morris said. But in a letter to Dr. Morris last week, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke called the incident "shocking" and said he would urge Dr. Amprey and the school board to investigate and respond with "appropriate administrative action."

Mrs. Morris said Mr. Coger told her during an Oct. 13 meeting that she "does not belong at Harlem Park" and would be transferred for "mishandling" the disruptive students.

"I believe you could have taken action that could have avoided this confrontation," she quoted the principal as saying.

Mr. Coger said he would not comment on the assault or his handling of it because it is a personnel matter.

"I felt like he treated me like a dog, and I had already been beaten up," she said. "It was like I was the culprit, not the victim here."

Mrs. Morris has contacted the Baltimore Teachers Union, which sent a representative to the Oct. 13 meeting, and said she would fight any effort to transfer her.

Dr. Amprey promised a "thorough investigation" of the incident. But after listening to Mr. Coger's testimony, he said: "I'm convinced the incident was handled adequately. He did all that a principal should do."

Mr. Coger suspended two youths -- evidence against two others Mrs. Morris said were involved remains "inconclusive" -- and called school police immediately, Dr. Amprey said.

Mrs. Morris gave this account of the incident:

She told a student who had been eating potato chips and talking in class to move to another seat.

"I'll move when I'm through [eating]," the student responded.

"You're going to change [seats] and change now," Mrs. Morris said.

"Get out of my face," the student said.

Mrs. Morris then picked up the student's book bag, and the student hit her in the left eye, causing her to grow dizzy and faint. In the hallway outside the classroom, students pulled her hair and repeatedly punched her.

This fall, Harlem Park Community School was created by combining Harlem Park elementary and middle schools into one school. It is a "Tesseract" school run by Education Alternatives Inc., a private Minneapolis firm.

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