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SEABROOK – Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) officials confirmed that Charles H. Flowers High School Principal Gorman Brown has been placed on paid administrative leave following footage of him punching a student surfaced online.
Local outlet WJLA ABC 7 released cell phone video of an altercation between Brown and a student on Feb. 6. The video shows Brown throwing the first punch, hitting the student in the face. The student retaliated, swinging back on Brown and backing up against a glass case. Brown attempted to restrain the student when a school resource officer arrived to break up the situation.
According to Prince George’s County Police (PGPD), the incident happened at 1:20 p.m. after Brown was called to help locate a student who left a classroom. As soon as Brown puts the student up against the case, the school resource officer used foam pepper spray on the student.
“The officer was then able to take the student into custody,” PGPD said in a statement. “The student was then immediately brought to the nurse’s office where his face was washed.”
Area 3 Associate Superintendent Dr. Carletta T. Marrow sent a letter out to parents and students following the incident, announcing Brown’s was on leave “until further notice” and Assistant Principal Ronald Miller will serve as the Administrator in Charge as an investigation is conducted. PGCPS officials said they cannot offer more information at this time as the case is still under investigation.
“The safety of our students and staff members is our top priority,” the letter said. “Safe learning environments are our collective responsibility. Today’s incident is not in line with our school mission and values.”
The video only shows “15 seconds of the end of two hours” with different interactions the student had with school staff, Chief Hank Stawinski said in a press conference on Feb. 7. Based on the camera footage inside the school building, the student struck Brown first, and the principal was looking to block a second attempt, Stawinski said.
“The video, when slowed down and examined critically, demonstrates that the student places his hand in the face of the principal,” Stawinski said. “What is viewed by some to be a blow, we believe is actually the principal swiping the hand away.”
The student refused extra medical treatment and was arrested. He was charged with assault as a juvenile and was released. PGPD said that there were no disciplinary actions placed on the school resource officer who used the foam pepper spray as it was applied appropriately. A detective has been assigned on the case, and the investigation is ongoing, PGPD officials said.
“What you see on that video is the end of the confrontation, which is what we wanted and the school resource officer accomplished,” Stawinski said. “Because at that point, the principal, who did get strike by some of the (pepper spray) moves away and the student, is taken away by our officer.”
Brown is one of the plaintiffs currently suing the school system after a secret camera was found in their offices. The lawsuit claims that on April 13, the camera was found posted inside the principal’s suite, in the corner of the office disguised as a smoke detector.
Attorney Erick Tyrone of The Tyrone Law Group, who is representing Brown, said that members of the Flowers Pom-Pom team would use the bathroom located in the suite to change during Saturday football games. There have been no updates to the case at this time.
“They want someone to be held accountable for the decisions that were made so they can be secured that when they go back to work that this is not going to happen again,” said Tyrone. “Everyone is a bit shaken up about having some third party spying on them for an undisclosed period of time and having their actions monitored.”
The fight comes after Interim CEO Monica Goldson sent out a letter on Nov. 2, addressing concerns of the amount of fights in and out of school. She said that PGCPS was working with the Department of Security Services to deploy extra personnel at certain schools while working with PGPD to increase the number of officers on school property.
“This type of behavior is not condoned by school administrators and will not be tolerated,” Goldson said. “We are taking positive steps towards addressing and deterring these disruptive acts in collaboration with our law enforcement partners.”
In their annual “Indicators of School Crime and Safety” report in 2011, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that 9.2 percent of teachers had been threatened with violence while 5.4 percent of teachers say a student physically attacked them.
PGCPS officials say that there is no timetable for a decision on Brown’s employment as the investigation is still ongoing. Calls and emails to Brown’s legal representation were not returned.