Baltimore City Public Schools CEO, Dr. Gregory Thornton, and the parents and teachers of REACH met to talk about the video showing a school police officer slapping a student at the school. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun video)
Baltimore schools CEO Gregory Thornton said Monday he will review the training and selection of school police after an officer was filmed slapping a teenager last week at the REACH Partnership school in Clifton Park.
Thornton met privately with parents and teachers Monday evening at the school to discuss the cellphone video that has raised tensions between school police and the community.
"It was a great conversation about how do we move forward from the challenges we had a few days ago," Thornton said afterward. Parents and teachers "didn't want the incident to define the school," he said.
About two dozen people arrived for the meeting in the school library. The news media were denied entry, and Thornton asked a reporter from The Baltimore Sun to leave. He said the meeting was open only to parents and faculty.
"I wanted them to have an opportunity to have like a living-room discussion," he said.
The video was filmed last Tuesday outside the school. It's unclear what happened before the officer slapped the teenage boy three times and kicked him once.
"It was very, very alarming," said Phyllis Gilmore, who has daughters in ninth and 10th grade at REACH. She spoke to a reporter after the meeting.
The officer has been identified as Anthony C. Spence, 44, of Baltimore. Spence's attorney said that the officer believed the 16-year-old was trespassing and that an altercation occurred when Spence asked the youth to leave.
"That was way out of line with anything we can tolerate," City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said of the video. "We're not going to put up with the abuse that we saw."
Spence has been placed on administrative leave along with a second officer filmed watching the incident. School officials have not named the officers, but Spence's lawyer and other sources identified him.
School Police Chief Marshall Goodwin also has been placed on administrative leave.
City police have launched a criminal investigation in collaboration with school police and the Baltimore state's attorney's office. On Monday night, school officials declined to discuss the investigation.
School officials took three days to acknowledge that the youth in the video is a REACH student. State Sen. Bill Ferguson has called that delay "unacceptable." The Baltimore lawmaker called last week for Thornton to resign.
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School police have significantly reduced their presence in schools in the past year. Thornton has assigned police full time to only seven city high schools. The rest were redeployed and sent into communities surrounding schools — where they are allowed to carry weapons — to help combat problems such as truancy. They are on foot and bike patrols.
Baltimore has the only sworn police force in the state run by a school system. Other school districts use school resource officers from local police departments to patrol schools. Those officers carry weapons. Baltimore's school police are not permitted to carry guns in a school.
Monday evening was the first in a series of community meetings around Baltimore that Thornton said he has planned to rebuild trust between police and families.