Supporters of a Frankford High School junior who was allegedly beaten by two school security officers called on Philadelphia Schools Superintendant Arlene Ackerman today to launch an independent investigation into the incident immediately.
They also demanded a probe into the alleged "boxing glove beating" of students at Olney High School by a district officer known as "Sarge."
"The schools are out of control and we need to do something about it," said Gregory Brinkley, Philadelphia chapter president of the National Action Network, a civil rights group headed by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Brinkley led a rally of about 20 mostly network members this afternoon at Frankford High School as classes let out for the day.
Jeffione Thomas, 17, a star running back for the Frankford High Pioneers, admits he was late for school Oct. 29 when the two truancy officers followed him into the building.
Just inside the school doors, Thomas said the two officers "jumped" him and knocked him unconscious. One of the officers put him in handcuffs while the other continued to beat him, Thomas said.
Several students watched as school surveillance cameras captured the episode.
"The beating lasted seven to 10 minutes," said senior Denzel Parker-Dixon. He said it took five administrators to pull the officers off of Thomas.
The assault, Thomas said, left him with a bruised eye and a torn lip that required six stitches.
After being treated at a nearby hospital, Thomas was charged with aggravated assault for allegedly hitting the officers. A court hearing, scheduled for this morning in Juvenile Court, was postponed until Jan. 22.
A spokesman for the school district said an investigation of the incident was in progress.
"We're aware of the allegations and are taking them very seriously," said spokesman Fernando Gallard. "It's a two prong investigation. One is looking at the actions of the student and the other the actions of the school police officers."
The security officers no longer work at Olney, said Mike Lodise, president of the School Police Union.
"They've been moved, I don't know where off hand, to other locations," Lodise said.
Lodise said the union has done it's own internal investigation but he could not comment.
At the rally, Brinkley demanded that the security guards be arrested and charges against Thomas be dropped. He said that a school district probe of the incident was "a sham" because district investigators had not spoken with Thomas. He also claimed the investigators had tried to convince witnesses to change their stories.
"We're calling for the DA to convene a grand jury immediately," Brinkley said.
Thomas - in a dark suit, lavender shirt and a paisley tie - quietly watched the rally as his mother and grandmother stood by his side.
Since the incident, he said he has "problems eating a little bit," but his injuries have otherwise healed.
Brinkley said Thomas' alleged beating had opened up a "pandora's box" and that his group was looking into other reports of assaults on students by school security officers.
Brinkley said a school district officer known as "Sarge" had beaten several students at Olney High School while wearing boxing gloves.
Brinkley identified the officer as Sgt. Robert Samuels who was recently transferred from Olney to South Philadelphia High School.
Samuels, through school district spokesman Gallard, declined to comment.
Gallard called Brinkley's charges "ludicrous."
"We looked at the allegations by the students and found them to be baseless," he said.
Tyrek Wiggins, a 14-year-old freshman interviewed by the Inquirer on Friday, said an officer wearing the nametag, "Sgt. Samuels," took him to a room last month where the officer put him in handcuffs. He said the officer threatened to hit him but did not strike him.
"Then he put on the black leather gloves, and was getting ready to hit me," the boy said. "And that's when Officer Ricky grabbed him and said 'stop'"
The boy did not attend yesterday's rally. Angela Boyd, the boy's mother, said the incident with Samuels occurred after her son was accused of bullying another student, for which he was then suspended.
Samuels was transferred to South Philadelphia High School as part of an effort to improve security there following complaints from Asian students of violence from mostly African-American students. Samuels speaks Cantonese and Mandarin.
Brinkley said he won't be satisfied until the state attorney general's office or the city Department of Human Services looks into the accusations.
"We hear this had been going on for three years," Brinkley said.