The Frederick Douglass High School staff member who was shot in the building two weeks ago said Friday that there was inadequate security in place on the day he was attacked and wounded.
Michael Marks, 56, was shot twice near the front lobby of the Northwest Baltimore high school. Police have charged 25-year-old Neil Davis, the family member of a Douglass student, with attempted first-degree murder in Marks’ shooting. According to charging documents, Davis wanted to confront Marks about disciplining his family member.
No attorney for Davis is listed in online court records.
Marks and his lawyer, J. Wyndal Gordon, said violence in surrounding neighborhoods has been bleeding into the school building, without enough being done to stop it.
“Given the history of violence and criminal activity in and around Frederick Douglass High School … appropriate security measures should have been in place to protect Mr. Marks from this vicious attack,” Gordon said during a news conference.
There are two main entrances to Douglass. As of the Feb. 8 shooting, only the main student entrance was outfitted with metal detectors. While children are required to walk through metal detectors in the mornings, people who came in through the visitors’ entrance wouldn’t be scanned. That was the entrance Davis used, according to police.
Marks said Davis also did not go through the mandated check-in process, which calls for all visitors to sign in at the front office and show identification. Instead, according to Marks, the man was able to just walk in and pace around the halls.
“He came into the school like it was a mall,” Gordon said. “It was grossly, unreasonably monitored.”
District officials disputed the allegations.
“Baltimore City Public Schools wishes Mr. Marks well as he continues to recover,” spokeswoman Edie House-Foster said in a statement. “However, City Schools unequivocally disagrees with remarks made at a news conference today about events that took place at Frederick Douglass High School on February 8, 2019. Because the incident remains under investigation, the district will not be making any further comments at this time.”
Douglass’ principal, Craig Rivers, had said Thursday that protocols were followed the day of the shooting.
Footage from the incident has not been made public.
The security failures weren’t limited to the actions of the school, Marks said. He cited a state law that prohibits school police officers from carrying guns, and the Baltimore school board’s vote in January to oppose legislation that would have allowed school police to carry their service weapons inside buildings.
State Del. Cheryl Glenn reintroduced legislation this week that would authorize these officers to be armed in school — a move she says is necessary after the shooting, regardless of where the school board stands. Board members have agreed to reconsider their stance at a forthcoming meeting.
“That failed me,” Marks said of the current law.
Rivers said in an interview that the school has increased security measures since the shooting.
There is now a metal detector in the visitors’ entrance. Any parent or relative who wants to visit the school must now make an appointment and be escorted through the building. There are now two people manning the front door, instead of one.
Marks — called “Coach Marks” by students, a reference to his days as a basketball coach — spent eight days in the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center after being shot twice in the body.
The 56-year-old hall monitor and special education assistant said he’s been plagued by nightmares since the shooting. Just driving past a school forces him to relive what happened on Feb. 8, he said.
He said he’s also in constant pain, with 70 or 80 medical staples still in him. When he came to address the news media Friday, he walked slowly, clutching his stomach. He had to lower himself slowly into a chair.
Despite his serious injuries, Marks said he’d do it all again if that’s what it took to protect Douglass students, though he and Gordon declined to describe what happened that day in detail.
Gordon said he’s considering legal remedies. He wants to have a conversation with Douglass and school system leaders about security protocols, and said it will take “some type of compensation” to make Marks whole again. He described Marks as a “superhero” for ensuring that no one else was injured in the shooting.
“No one takes pride in going after a public school system — these are our babies,” he said. “But although everyone is sorry about what happened to Mr. Marks, we’re waiting for someone to step forward and say, ‘We have your back, the same way as you had the backs of our students and staff on Feb. 8, 2019.’ ”