Mother defends actions at school

Woodlawn: Sharod Bailey says officials haven't done enough to defuse violence at the campus.

April 03, 2004|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

The mother arrested after Thursday's melee at Woodlawn High School said yesterday that she was trying to prevent a fight involving her daughter when she burst into the building during an anger management assembly.

Sharod Bailey, 33, is charged with disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, trespassing on school property and disrupting school activities. Her daughter, 15-year-old Tearra High, is charged as a juvenile with second-degree assault.

The mother and daughter said they had been escorted out of the auditorium by the time fights had broken out among the audience of 750 ninth-graders, who had gathered to learn about ways to peacefully resolve conflict.

But Bailey's interaction with girls who she said had been fighting with her daughter in recent weeks touched off several other fights throughout the auditorium, according to officials and witnesses.

Ninth-grader Melissa Parks said people climbed over seats and shoved each other to get a better look at some of the fights. Woodlawn Principal C. Anthony Thompson described the scene Thursday as "chaos." Eleven students were suspended.

Bailey said she had taken matters into her own hands Thursday because she does not believe that school officials have done enough to defuse what she said is continuing violence at Woodlawn, a 1,900-student high school near Security Square Mall that has been trying to improve its image in recent years.

"They toss out suspensions -- three days, five days," Bailey said. "But they never really do anything else. I don't want my child or anybody else's child getting hurt."

Thompson did not return telephone calls yesterday, but school system officials said on the principal's behalf that the high school has worked hard to curb violence and that administrators have met several times with groups of parents, students and police officers to address concerns.

"The school has been trying to be proactive, as witnessed by the conflict management course," said Charles Herndon, a school system spokesman. "Unfortunately, that got out of hand when the mother disrupted it."

All Baltimore County schools participate in anger management and conflict resolution programs, system officials said.

In the first half of last school year, the most recent period for which data are available, Woodlawn ranked second among Baltimore County's 24 high schools for the number of times police were called to the building, according to the county Police Department. Only Randallstown High School, with 30 calls from August 2002 to February 2003, topped Woodlawn's 26 calls, according to the police statistics.

Bailey said she had talked with school officials when, about three weeks ago, her daughter became involved in a fight in a hallway. Tearra said she and half a dozen other ninth-grade girls were suspended.

Tearra said she hates going to school and sees fights there almost every day.

When a friend of Bailey's daughter called Thursday morning to tell her that Tearra was about to fight with several girls -- one of whom the caller thought had a knife or razor blade -- Bailey said she "went a little insane."

She said she jumped into her white Honda Acura, which had a flat tire, and sped to the school. At the school, several girls were standing at the auditorium door shouting, "Miss Sharod, Miss Sharod. Over here!" she said.

Bailey entered the auditorium -- she said she didn't realize there was an organized event in progress -- and she and her daughter approached several ninth-graders with whom Tearra had been involved in skirmishes recently.

"I went up to one of the girls, and I said, `Baby, what's the problem with you all and my daughter?'" Bailey said.

She said she and her daughter soon were escorted out of the auditorium by school officials -- before any real fighting began. "Neither myself nor my daughter ever laid our hands on anybody," she said.

The statement of charges against Bailey gives a different account -- one in which the mother stormed into the building "in a hostile manner" and screamed curse words at the girls.

Bailey, who was released on her own recognizance early yesterday morning, said she would like to see Woodlawn officials work with parents to address some of the high school's problems.

"Something has to be done," she said. "I don't want to attend a funeral for my child or any other child."

But Herndon, the school system spokesman, said that compared with previous school years, this one has seen fewer problems at Woodlawn High School.

"We haven't seen the entrenched trends of suspensions or problems there like we have in previous years," he said. "It's unfortunate that this event, right before spring break, marred what has been a relatively quiet year."

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