Accused officer avoids school job

He voluntarily stays away as teen-ager he arrested returns to Glenelg High


December 19, 2003|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,SUN STAFF

An officer accused of using excessive force while arresting a student is voluntarily steering clear of his post at Glenelg High School while the allegations are investigated, Howard County Police said yesterday.

Officer Kelly Smith is "putting some distance between himself and the school," said police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn, "in an effort to quell some of the tension."

The move allowed 15-year-old Marvin Ebrahimzadeh - who was arrested Dec. 10 after disrupting a class - to return to school Wednesday afternoon after a week's absence. He said he was too afraid of the officer to return to Glenelg High after the arrest.

"We are happy he is back in school, but we needed to make a safe environment first," said the boy's mother, Jaleh Ebrahimzadeh.

Ebrahimzadeh and his parents claim Smith was too physical when taking the boy into custody - putting him in a headlock and slamming him to the ground - last week after he refused to follow a teacher's and an administrator's directions.

They have also said the boy was bruised during the incident, though no marks were visible Tuesday during a news conference held by the family.

School system spokeswoman Patti Caplan said Ebrahimzadeh was "defiant" Dec. 10 and refused orders to switch seats in his biology class. Vice Principal Robert Connor intervened at the teacher's request, Caplan said, but Ebrahimzadeh was rude to him, as well.

"He was insubordinate," Caplan said Tuesday, adding that Connor asked for the officer's assistance when Ebrahimzadeh would not accompany the assistant principal to the office.

"He continued to refuse after repeated requests from both the assistant principal and the officer," Caplan said, prompting Smith to arrest the sophomore, even though Ebrahimzadeh had agreed to change seats by then.

An internal review by the Police Department has shown Smith acted appropriately, said Llewellyn, who added that the officer has not been reassigned.

"There has been no decision made to remove him as the [school resource officer] at Glenelg," she said. "Our review continues to reveal no wrongdoing on the part of Officer Smith."

Ebrahimzadeh family members have not filed a complaint about Smith with the Police Department, though they have contacted several media and anti-discrimination representatives to air their grievances and look into whether the incident was racially motivated because of the boy's Middle Eastern descent.

Rizwan Mowlana, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he doesn't believe discrimination was a factor.

"I don't see any prejudice," he said yesterday, confirming what school system officials had determined after meeting with the family Tuesday.

But the family's attorney, Hassan Ahmad, said he is not convinced.

"As [Ebrahimzadeh's] lawyer, that question is still open," Ahmad said.

The school system has also restricted the duties of Vice Principal Robert Connor, who called for the officer's help.

Connor will "not be dealing with any situation involving this particular student," Caplan said. "It made sense at this point, given that we felt there had been a breakdown of trust."

Ebrahimzadeh said his first couple of days back at school have been marked by minor celebrity. "Today," he said, "was a lot more at ease."

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