Students charged in teen's beating 400 people in Howard urge school officials to expel suspects

November 06, 1997|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this article.

More than 400 parents, teachers and students have signed a petition urging Howard County school officials to expel at least three students who are accused of severely beating another student -- shattering his jaw -- at Columbia's Long Reach High School.

The Oct. 21 incident that began over a dropped quarter sent senior Kenny Magan, 17, into emergency surgery on his jaw, which was fractured in two places. He returned to school six days later with a permanent steel plate in his face and his mouth wired shut, but is now in good condition, he said yesterday.

Immediately after the incident, Long Reach Principal David A. Bruzga suspended three boys -- two freshmen and a sophomore -- for 10 school days, the maximum punishment available to principals, he said.

The three also were arrested and charged with assault.

Yesterday, Bruzga said he suspended a fourth boy, another freshman, also for 10 days.

Now, members of the Long Reach High community want to make sure county education officials follow Bruzga's recommendation that the four be expelled.

"I have two daughters in this school, and I just don't want to see another child get hurt," said Linda K. Wyatt, a school crossing guard who organized the petition drive.

She delivered a letter and 407-signature petition to schools Superintendent Michael E. Hickey on Oct. 30.

"I feel that once kids are in school, they should be safe," Wyatt said. "People say stuff like this happens but, whatever -- this has to be stopped."

James R. McGowan, associate superintendent of administrative services, said the expulsion recommendation will be on Hickey's desk when the superintendent returns Monday from a trip.

McGowan said he could not comment on the specifics of the incident. "We do treat assaults as very serious matters, especially ones in which hospitalization is involved. Assaults like this can result in expulsion," he said.

The names of the four students were not released because they are younger than 18; they could not be reached for comment.

Only two days remain in the 10-day suspensions of the first three boys, Bruzga said. Unless they are expelled, they are expected back in classes Monday, he said.

For Kenny -- a Jessup resident who lived in Prince George's County until two years ago, when a friend was fatally shot in a school there -- the effects of the attack linger.

"I came here to get a better education and because my parents thought it would be safer," he said. "Now, I look both ways in the hall every time I come out of class. Nowhere [in the school] can possibly be safe because there's not always an adult there."

Said Wendy Kelly, his mother: "There are times I want to cry because somebody did this to my child -- this is my child. It's just not right.

"Where is it going to be safe for my kids to go to school?" she asked. "How far do I have to move?"

The incident comes in the same year that Howard school officials have focused their attention on disruptive youths. They have set aside about $300,000 for Saturday schools and evening classes for disciplinary cases and to hire a central office coordinator to oversee disciplinary activities.

Sgt. Steven E. Keller, a Howard police spokesman, said the second-degree assault cases against the three youths -- 14-year-olds from Jessup and Columbia, and a 16-year-old from Columbia -- are pending. It was unclear late yesterday whether the fourth student also will be charged.

The attack seems to have been sparked by a minor confrontation over 25 cents: Kenny dropped a quarter in the school cafeteria and the student who is alleged later to have led the attack tried to take it, police said.

Kenny said he gave it up without a fight. A week later, he was attacked by what witnesses said were as many as seven boys while he waited for his girlfriend, Kelly Stultz, 17, in the hall outside his third-period class.

Kenny told police that it began about 12: 30 p.m. when he was hit in the head from behind.

He was then struck repeatedly from "several different directions," Keller said.

Minutes later, blood from his nose and split lip splattered the corridor and stairwell, and his jaw was broken, witnesses and police said. When he fell to the ground, covering his head with his hands, he was kicked by the boys.

Kenny learned later that he was rumored to have made disparaging comments about one of his attackers, apparently sparking the incident with the quarter. Yesterday, Kenny denied the rumors and said he didn't even know the students' names.

Bruzga said: "This was not so much a fight as an assault. It disturbs me that they'd exhibit that kind of behavior."

Although some students apparently drafted a counterpetition aimed at keeping the suspects in school, most on campus seemed to support Kenny. Dozens contributed to a fund of more than $400 to support him and his family during the crisis.

Kelly, a waitress, lost a week's pay caring for her son. His medical bills top $2,500 and the family has no health insurance, she said.

Pub Date: 11/06/97

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