An Anne Arundel police officer was punched twice in the head at a high school football game last month, another example of rising political and racial tensions in the county.
The officer, who has not been identified, was treated for a concussion after being punched at the Old Mill-North County game in Glen Burnie on Sept. 27, said Sgt. Jackie Davis, a police spokeswoman.
The officer was one of several escorting unruly spectators from the game after arguments and a fight broke out over clothing printed with slogans supporting President Donald Trump.
The incident, another at the Severna Park-Arundel game on Sept. 13 and others have prompted extra awareness from police, Davis said.
Also in response, Superintendent George Arlotto and other senior school administrators began attending select games Oct. 4 to provide “multiple sets” of extra eyes and ears to be on the lookout for problems, said Bob Mosier, Anne Arundel County Public Schools spokesman.
Regular season games continue through Nov. 1.
“The determination of those games is based on where there figure to be large crowds, the intensity of any rivalries, and the impact of the games on playoffs. Those tend to draw more fans who are more enthusiastic,” Mosier wrote in an email Friday. “The decisions are not based in any way in the demographic makeup of the schools involved in the games.”
A school spokesman said there were no incidents reported Friday night.
The incident at Old Mill High in Millersville started when people wearing pro-Trump slogans and others who objected to them began to hurl insults at each other, Davis said. Eventually, a fight broke out.
As officers escorted both groups out of the stadium, a fight broke out with police and the unidentified officer was struck twice. Police charged a juvenile with assaulting the officer. The officer was treated at a local hospital and released.
This comes as a new report shows Anne Arundel tops the state, with 78 incidents last year, in hate or bias incidents reported by Maryland law enforcement agencies reported. The school system tracks the number of reports of bias-motivated behavior and the 2018-19 school year had the most reports on record, 244.
In the Sept. 13 incident involving the Severna Park and Arundel teams, a black player on the Arundel team complained that a white player on the Severna Park squad used hate speech to insult him after a play had ended. Fans from Severna Park were also wearing pro-Trump slogans, and witnesses said there were insults from both sides of the filed.
A police and school investigation was unable to find any corroborating witnesses to the complaint that hate speech was used by a player, and no disciplinary action was taken against the Severna Park student involved. Principals of both schools sent letters home to students urging students to exhibit good sportsmanship.
That wasn’t good enough for Stephon Hutt, the mother of the Arundel High student. She confronted Arlotto on the response to the incident Tuesday during a meeting of the Caucus of African American Leaders in Annapolis.
Arlotto, members of his leadership team and most of the county Board of Education attended the meeting to discuss a new initiative to close the achievement gap for students of color.
Arlotto said that despite the failure of a school or police investigation to make a determination, he took the complaint seriously.
“I have no reason to believe your son did not tell the truth,” he said.
But he said that the school’s code of conduct prohibited taking action with proof that something happened. He also said he could not ban political speech at games.
“What I’ll ask you is that when you hear things, report things,” Arlotto said. “I want you to start as a baseline that I love, we love your children.”
A member of the largely black audience asked Arlotto, who is white, to correct his statement.
"Our children,” he agreed.
The response by Arlotto and other school officials upset some in the crowd, who argued that failure to take action after the Sept. 13 complaint was a sign that black parents and students don’t have credibility with school administrators.
Vickie Gipson, an Anne Arundel County Orphans Court judge, suggested that when an incident is credible but unproven, the whole team or school involved should be required to participate in classes that focus on ways to have a dialogue about race and individual differences.
Arlotto expressed interest in the idea and said he would explore it with his staff.
Monique Jackson, deputy superintendent of schools said, Friday night football has become problematic for students and others.
“They want to use it as a social venue ... sometimes things happen and sometimes there are violations of the code of conduct,” she said.
John King, who served as secretary of education under President Barack Obama, was at the meeting to discuss disparities in education for students of color. But he joined the discussion of the Sept. 13 incident at the football game.
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“What happened that night was a symptom,” he said. “The community has to ask why we’re treating each other that way.”