A staff member at Calverton Elementary/Middle was putting in extra hours at the West Baltimore school Sunday afternoon when two 13-year-old boys broke into the building and one tried to rape her, police confirmed yesterday.
Realizing that her attacker was unarmed, police said, the woman fought back, and both the boys - identified as students at the school - fled. When they returned for class Monday, they were arrested and charged as juveniles with attempted first-degree rape, attempted robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and trespassing, police said.
The attack highlighted continuing concerns about city students attacking staff members, and it raised new worries about the safety of the many city administrators and teachers who work in their buildings beyond school hours. While students have attacked staff members more than 100 times this academic year and one assault on a teacher was recently publicized on national news, this is the year's first case of an attempted sexual assault against a staff member, officials said.
"It kind of blew me away," said the school police chief, Marshall "Toby" Goodwin. "The kids are just out of control. Any time a kid comes in and does something like this, it tells you about the family values at home. There are none."
Goodwin said that any staff members who will be in an empty school building should notify both their principal and school police as a precaution. He said school police officers, who are on duty around the clock, are willing to escort them as they enter and exit the building.
Calverton, located at 1100 Whitmore Ave., is in a neighborhood known for gang conflicts where violence has been rampant in recent weeks. On April 15, Calverton was among the schools put on lockdown after a city police officer was shot outside nearby Alexander Hamilton Elementary/Middle. The next day, a student from Frederick Douglass High was shot in the face in the same area, and Calverton was placed on lockdown again.
At a recent principals' meeting, city schools chief Andres Alonso publicly thanked the staff at Calverton and the other schools in the neighborhood for going beyond the call of duty that week to serve their students. He also visited the schools to ask what support they need.
As a result of the two neighborhood shootings, the principal at Calverton had requested that all staff members leave school before dark, said Marietta English, co-president of the Baltimore Teachers Union. "She just wanted them to be safe," English said.
English was one of many who were shocked that a 13-year-old boy would attempt rape. "I'm just floored that it even comes across your mind at 13," she said. "You ought to be thinking about playing baseball or football. It is just really disturbing that this even happened."
Jimmy Gittings, president of the union representing city school administrators, said the attack demonstrates how hard it is for schools to control students' violent behavior. "If it's not controlled at home, it's certainly not going to be controlled in the community, and how in God's name do you expect us to control it in the schools?" he asked.
According to Goodwin, a group of Calverton staff members was working on Sunday when two boys broke in through a classroom window on the Braddish Avenue side of the large building, which houses an elementary school and a middle school that recently merged into one.
While one of the boys rummaged through the building, the other attacked the staff member in an office, Goodwin said. But the woman was able to fight him off and sustained only minor physical injuries. She called police as soon as the boys had fled the building, around 3:30 p.m.
Police were able to identify the suspects on a surveillance camera at the school. They were being detained at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center. Even though police say only one of the boys was involved in the physical attack, both were charged with attempted rape.
Parents picking up their children at Calverton yesterday afternoon had not heard anything about the incident.
"I have to find out more about it," said Helen Clemens, who has a nephew in the seventh grade. "I should be aware of what is going on if something like that is going on."
Lakeshia Johnson, whose daughter is in the eighth grade, gasped when told what happened. "I can't wait to get my child away from this environment," she said. "I'm just disgusted. I don't like that. I'm really upset about that. It is ridiculous; it doesn't make any sense at all."
Some parents said children at the school can be unruly. Brenda Stewart said she started escorting her children home from the school a few months ago after they were jumped by a group of other children. "These kids, they are so disrespectful," she said. "You can't put everything on the school system, you really can't."
Mayor Sheila Dixon was briefed about the alleged crime Monday, said Sterling Clifford, a City Hall spokesman. "Youth violence is of great concern to the mayor," he said.
But Clifford said there are limitations to what the city can do: "We can't say, `Here's the new policy.' We can't say, `Here is the new deployment policy for police in the schools.' ... What we can do is work with the school system and offer any assistance that they are asking for."
Clifford, who is also the spokesman for the city's Police Department, said city detectives helped school police interview the boys.