Baltimore City Schools will work to respond to student concerns as demonstrations continue in the city following the funeral for Freddie Gray, an unarmed black man who died of a spinal cord injury in police custody this month. The district detailed its plans in a news release Monday afternoon as people, including some students, clashed with police in an apparent response to a call on social media for a high school “purge.”
After the situation escalated, the district cancelled school Tuesday, the Baltimore Sun reported Monday night.
Tensions started when people gathered near a mall and a transit hub on Monday afternoon and pelted a large gathering of police officers with rocks and bottles, according to Baltimore Sun reports. Earlier in the day, the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus and several downtown businesses closed out of concerns about potential violence, the paper reported. By 5 p.m., Baltimore police reported seven officers had been injured at the scene.
“According to a widely circulated flier, a high school ‘purge’ was to take place at 3 p.m., starting at Mondawmin Mall and ending downtown. Such memes have been known to circulate regularly among city school students, based on a film ‘The Purge,’ about what would happen if all laws were suspended,” the Baltimore Sun reported. “The flier included an image of protesters smashing the windshield of a police car Saturday during a march spurred by the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who suffered a spinal cord injury earlier this month after being arrested by city police.”
A police official “would not speculate on whether the incident was related to Gray’s death,” the Sun reported.
Images and livestreams from the events circulated on Twitter Monday afternoon.
Officer is down. Badly injured. pic.twitter.com/5lCOTJMS2a
-- Erica L. Green (@EricaLG) April 27, 2015
School police car with a broken window.. Officer holding his arm pic.twitter.com/RXr7vx31nt
-- Christian Schaffer (@chrisfromabc2) April 27, 2015
Some of the projectiles that were thrown at Baltimore Police pic.twitter.com/Z2HJr7EZKq
-- Athena Jones (@AthenaCNN) April 27, 2015
Baltimore City schools are coordinating with city leaders and police “to ensure we are ready to respond to situations as they arise,” the district said in its Monday statement.
“At this time of tension and anxiety regarding the tragic events surrounding Mr. Freddie Gray, we have a heightened responsibility to our students, families, and school communities,” the statement said.
Schools will make crisis counselors and mental health workers available for students who are working to process events, and those workers will stay “as long as it is necessary,” the statement said.
“Additionally, we have redeployed senior district staff and mobile units to assist in ensuring safe passage of our students between school buildings and bus stops,” the district said. A district spokeswoman said schools had not reported walkouts as rumors about the youth protest circulated earlier in the day Monday.
After questions about police conduct and racial justice swirled in Ferguson, Mo., questions also circulated about how teachers should discuss the situation in their classrooms. The same is true in Baltimore, which the schools’ statement addressed:
We are also communicating with each one of our school leaders around effective instructional strategies to heighten student awareness and understanding of social justice issues. We are deeply concerned about our students and community, and we hope to treat this situation not only as a teachable moment but also a time for thoughtful reflection on how we can reduce conflict and violence in our society. We will continue to be vigilant in our support for all of the city's young people." Photo: Residents clean up Tuesday, April 28, after an evening of riots in Baltimore. National Guard troops fanned out through the city, shield-bearing police officers blocked the streets and firefighters doused still-simmering blazes early Tuesday as a growing area of Baltimore shuddered from riots following the funeral of Freddie Gray who died in police custody. --Evan Vucci/AP
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.