Family of beaten boy sues school system for $4 million Officials failed to protect youngster, lawyer says

January 25, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The family of a former Glen Burnie High School student is suing the Anne Arundel County school system for $4 million, claiming it failed to protect the youth from a serious beating by five other students.

School officials had not seen the complaint, filed last week in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, and had no comment.

Stephen Johnson was a ninth-grader Jan. 21, 1997, when he was attacked in a boy's locker room, said Michael A. Epstein, the youth's lawyer.

"His head was pounded into the floor, and his head was pounded into some lockers," Epstein said. He suffered a concussion, bruises and other injuries.

Nobody was supervising the area, though administrators at the high school had been told that a group of boys had been picking on Stephen because he was small, the lawyer said. The suit faults the school system for not seeking emergency medical attention for the boy, but instead alerting his parents, who took him for treatment.

"He never returned to the school after that. He was pretty traumatized," Epstein said. "The family moved from there; they no longer want him in that school system."

He would not reveal where the child is living.

Stephen Barry, special assistant to the superintendent for student discipline, recalled the incident as one of two serious assaults at Glen Burnie High School in January 1997. He could not discuss details of the allegations and investigation, but said officials recommended expulsion for four of the five youths involved in the attack.

Since then, the four have been readmitted to county schools, though not all to Glen Burnie. Other disciplinary measures were taken against the fifth student, a special education student, Barry said.

Police were called to the school in the assault on Stephen and charged all five as juveniles with assault, but later dropped the charges.

Beset by assaults, automobile break-ins and robberies from the start of the 1996-1997 academic year, Glen Burnie High School officials called for police more than 100 times in the first semester.

The chronic problems led principal David Hill to ask county police to help supervise more than 2,000 students at the 39-acre, six-building campus beginning last Feb. 3.

Pub Date: 1/24/98

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