Officers seen in viral video charged with assaulting student

Attorney J. Wyndal Gordon, on two school police officers charged with assaulting a student

WASHINGTON — Two Baltimore City School Police officers seen in a viral video in which one officer hits and kicks a student have been arrested and charged with assaulting the teenager.

Anthony Spence, 44, is charged with second-degree child abuse by a custodian, a felony, and two misdemeanors, second-degree assault and misconduct in office for the March 1 incident at REACH Partnership School.

The other officer in the video, Saverna Bias, 53, is charged with second-degree assault and misconduct in office, according to Maryland online court records.

Both officers are free on bond, and due in court for preliminary hearings in April.

Bias stood by, as Spence appears to strike the teenager, in video obtained and broadcast by WBAL-TV.

“I was appalled, I was disappointed,” upon seeing the video, said Greg Thornton, CEO of Baltimore City Schools in a joint news conference late Wednesday morning. “I’m charged to take care of our children, and here, we have some folks that are doing things that are inappropriate.”

Spence’s attorney, Michael Davey, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

School officials initially said officers responded to a reported intruder, and that the young man in the video wasn’t a REACH student. On Friday, the school system said in a statement that he is “believed to be a student on the school’s roster,” as asserted by his lawyer, Lauren Geisser. Geisser said the student is a 10th grader.

Since he has been charged with a felony, Spence is on administrative leave without pay, while Bias is on paid administrative leave.

“I’m relieved the Baltimore City School police chief was able to investigate this matter, and not hide behind the blue shield, but actually uncover evidence that merited a criminal prosecution, then pass that information to the Baltimore City state’s attorney’s office,” said J. Wyndal Gordon, a Baltimore attorney who is not representing any parties in this matter.

Gordon opposes the notion of arming school police officers.

“If you have a firearm, at some point in time you’re going to use it, because you will make the excuse you were in fear of your life from some school-age child, and you had no other alternative,” said Gordon.

In fact, Gordon would prefer school systems be allowed to hire private citizens to resolve conflicts in school without criminal prosecution.

“Children will make mistakes, children will get in fights, children will engage in behavior that would be criminal if they were adults,” Gordon said. “So we need individuals to keep these children safe, and not have them prosecuted for the most minor offenses.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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