Teacher files charges against student

Teenage girl accused of assault in classroom

April 24, 2008|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,Sun reporter

Jolita Berry, the teacher whose assault at Reginald F. Lewis High School was recorded on a cell phone camera and highly publicized, filed criminal charges yesterday against the student who she says attacked her.

Margaret Burns, a spokeswoman for Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, confirmed that Berry had filed second-degree assault charges against the girl with the Department of Juvenile Services.

The juvenile system will interview the girl and determine whether to forward the case to prosecutors in Jessamy's office.

Berry, a 30-year-old art teacher at the Northeast Baltimore school, said last night that she filed the charges because she does not want other teachers to go through what she has.

Berry says she has nightmares about the incident but initially hesitated filing charges because she worried about retaliation from the school system and others in the community.

"You know how it is when you file charges against someone. You don't know who they know," Berry said. "But I talked to my family about it. I talked with God. I just don't want anyone else to go through this."

Berry filed charges on the same day as The Sun published a letter to the editor from Jessamy about how most teachers assaulted in city schools do not press charges.

Under Maryland law, unless a police officer witnesses a second-degree assault, it is up to the victim to file charges.

While the city school system has expelled students 112 times this academic year for assaulting staff members, only a few of the victims have pressed charges. Jessamy's letter says some teachers have told prosecutors that their schools discouraged them from coming forward. Others were worried about the time and energy a court case would require.

A video of the alleged attack against Berry in her classroom April 4 shows a woman lying on the floor and a teenage girl hitting her. The video has been widely circulated on the Internet and on television, and Berry's story was covered by the Today show and other national media outlets, highlighting a chronic problem of assaults on teachers in Baltimore schools.

sara.neufeld@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Brent Jones contributed to this article.

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