Beaten teen's father sues Balto. Co. school board for $1 million

September 25, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons RTC | Sheridan Lyons RTC,Sun Staff Writer

The father of a 17-year-old Patapsco High School student has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Baltimore County Board of Education, alleging that it failed to protect his son from racial violence.

Robert Lawrence Hill first was attacked as a new student in October 1992 by a member of the Yo Boys, according to the lawsuit filed recently by his father, Lawrence C. Hill of the 8400 block of Kavanaugh Road.

On April 24, the same youth again attacked Robert Hill as he walked home from school, pushing him to the ground, kicking him in the face and ribs and fracturing his skull around an eye, the suit says.

The lawsuit, filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court, names only the school board as a defendant, alleging that it has been negligent by discouraging discipline, providing inadequate supervision and security and failing to anticipate the second assault.

"The board doesn't permit the teachers to enforce the rules that are already in effect," said William T. Glasgow, the Hills' attorney. "They don't allow the school to discipline, to deal with it administratively. They tell them, 'Go back and work it out. These kids need to be in school.' Maybe they need to be in a special school for troublemakers."

Charles A. Herndon III, supervisor of communications for the school system, said, "Obviously, since this is still in litigation, we will not have any comment." At the office of the schools' insurance carrier, Trigon Administrators, claims supervisor Marie Huebschman said that she had received a copy of the civil lawsuit and that an attorney would be assigned.

Mr. Glasgow called the first incident a fluke: The youth was singled out as he was leaving an evening school dance because he was wearing dark high-topped boots with white laces. He didn't know, according to the lawsuit, that "apparently this type of attire is symbolic of 'White Pride.' " He was hospitalized for 48 hours with face and head injuries and a possible concussion.

Robert Hill had just transferred to Patapsco in 1992. Describing him as "a mild-mannered boy," Mr. Glasgow said, "He is not a skinhead -- just trying to find out where he fits in the system."

The assailant was suspended briefly, then allowed to return to Patapsco -- with an order from a juvenile master to stay away from the Hill youth, Mr. Glasgow said. After the second attack, he was sent to the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School for juvenile offenders.

Beginning in October 1992, school officials responded to several racial incidents between a loosely organized group of skinheads -- white students wearing bomber jackets and combat boots -- and the group of black students and white sympathizers known at the school as Yo Boys. Most of the clashes were off school property.

The school banned red and white shoelaces, swastikas and Nazi medals, Confederate flags, and Malcolm X and black power insignia, Principal Barbara B. Russell said.

She declined to comment on the Hill case, but said she was disappointed that the April incident had occurred after the changes had been made.

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