On Monday the CEO of the Baltimore City Public School System met with parents from the REACH! Partnership school, in Northeast Baltimore. Cell phone video of a school police officer slapping and kicking a student at that school surfaced last week.
Reporters were not allowed inside the meeting, which lasted more than an hour.
Afterward CEO Gregory Thornton said the school system must look at the incident as an opportunity to improve.
The four-second cell phone clip has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. Phyllis Gilmore has two children who attend REACH!
“I was very outraged. Very outraged because i felt like there was another way to handle the situation,” she said.
Gilmore also said she's been hearing complaints about the officer seen in that video, for the past several months.
“Since December I have been getting complaints of that officer with the verbal abuse,” she said.
Thornton said that one issue addressed in the meeting was that first, the school system maintained the student in the video did not attend REACH!
Days later officials had to admit that he did.
“What we have is we call flash reports. The first initial flash report the principal did not recognize the individual. And as result of that, we made the assumption that the youngster was not part of the school. We sense found out the youngster is,” Thornton said.
Thornton and the parents say the meeting was about bringing the community together -- and to find new ways to listen to students about what's going on inside the school.
“Mistakes were made,” Thornton said. “And as result how do you move forward from those mistakes. And I've had a coalition of parents, a coalition of teachers saying we're not going to let REACH! be defined by this particular incident.”
A criminal investigation into the officer's actions is being conducted by the Baltimore City Police Department.
Thornton said the incident will force the system to look at how it recruits and trains its police officers.
Phyllis Gilmore said she feels better after attending the meeting, but still: “It's very alarming to see city officials the way they handle our kids in Baltimore City Public Schools,” she said.
Thornton said despite calls for him to resign or be fired, he hopes to remain in charge of the system.
The city's school board meets Tuesday night; the incident at REACH! Partnership is not on the agenda but some parents have said they plan to attend, to try and address the board directly, in public.