Students at Meade Senior High School gathered in their school gym yesterday morning to discuss the Rodney King verdict and the violence that followed. After some discussion, the students became angrier and angrier. Finally, about 100 students refused to go to class.
Within 30 minutes, about 30 Anne Arundel County and state police officers arrived at the school. Officers arrested two students and charged them with disorderly conduct.
"We didn't want to go back to class," said Gerald Davis, a 15-year-old black sophomore. "We felt this [the verdict] is wrong and we should do something about it. . . What happened today in school was right."
The vast majority of students were not caught up in the demonstration. Most of the 75 to 100 students in the gym returned to their classrooms after repeated warnings from the principal. A handful of students roamed the hallways, got into minor scuffles with administrators and overturned some desks and chairs in an empty classroom.
Renee Ryan, a 17-year-old white 11th-grader, said she saw students in the hallways and "throwing wads of paper in the classrooms. They thought it was prejudiced because of what happened in Los Angeles. They accused us of being prejudiced."
No one was injured, no classes were canceled and school administrators said the rest of the day was quiet.
Twenty state and county police officers stayed all day, keeping an eye on the cafeteria during lunch and patrolling school grounds. Four county officers will be at the school this morning.
The school notified the police when the students would not go back to class. The first officers that arrived saw about 20 students in front of the main entrance and called for more assistance.
Meade Senior High School, on the grounds of Fort Meade, has 1,800 students. Thirty-three percent of the students are black.
School officials said the brief sit-in was not unexpected.
"The minute I heard the information on the verdict, I became concerned," said Ken Lawson, an assistant superintendent for student services. "It was a very troubling development and I expected reaction."
Van Hicks, a black senior, said he didn't approve of what happened. "The Rodney King decision was wrong, but that doesn't mean it's right to do what they were doing," he said. "The protesters were running around the school trying to get out of classes."
Renee Ryan's mother, Dorothy Ryan of Severn, who also has a son in ninth grade at Meade, went to the school at 2 p.m. to pick them up. "I just didn't like what was going on," she said.
Students said the lunch period was tense, with white and black students sitting in separate sections of the cafeteria discussing rumors about the protest and violence.
Divan N. Conner, 19, of the 8300 block of Pioneer Drive, Severn, was charged with assault, accused of pushing an assistant principal after the sit-in. He also was charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with a school activity.
Sean W. Graves, 19, who lives at Mr. Conner's home, was arrested outside the school when he got into a scuffle with police and tried to block officers from entering the building, according to the police. He was charged with disorderly conduct, interfering with a school activity and resisting arrest.
About two hours before the sit-in, police said, a black student hit a white student, apparently during a discussion about the King case. The attacker was suspended, but police do not believe that incident caused the subsequent protest.
Nancy Jane Adams, a spokeswoman for the county school system, said letters were sent home to parents yesterday
afternoon and counselors will be available today. No other county schools reported any problems.
Mr. Lawson said students involved in any disruptive activity could be disciplined. "We have an obligation to investigate. It is not our intention to overreact."