Supporters of a Frankford High School junior allegedly beaten by two school security officers yesterday called on Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman to launch immediately an independent investigation into the incident.
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 people, mostly network members, at Frankford High as classes let out for the day.
Jeffione Thomas, 17, a running back for the Frankford High Pioneers, acknowledges that he was late for school Oct. 29 when the two officers followed him into the building.
Just inside the school doors, Thomas said, the officers "jumped" him and knocked him unconscious. One 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 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 hearing, scheduled for yesterday 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 Frankford, said Mike Lodise, president of the School Police Union.
"They've been moved, I don't know where offhand, to other locations," Lodise said.
Lodise said the union had done its own internal investigation but said he could not comment.
At the rally, Brinkley demanded that the security guards be arrested and that charges against Thomas be dropped. He said a School District probe was "a sham" because district investigators had not spoken with Thomas. He also claimed the investigators had tried to persuade witnesses to change their stories.
"We're calling for the D.A. to convene a grand jury immediately," Brinkley said.
Thomas - in a dark suit, lavender shirt, and paisley tie - watched the rally quietly 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 that Thomas' alleged beating had opened 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 while wearing boxing gloves.
Brinkley identified the officer as Sgt. Robert Samuels, recently transferred from Olney to South Philadelphia High School.
Samuels, through 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.
Tyreek Wiggins, a 14-year-old freshman interviewed Friday, said that last month, an officer wearing a name tag that read "Sgt. Samuels" took him to a room 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, his 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 as part of an effort to improve security there following complaints from Asian students of violence, mostly from African American students. Samuels speaks Cantonese and Mandarin.
Brinkley said he would not 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.