#students | #parents | MCPS Reiterates Safety of Portable Classrooms after Whitman High Assault

Student, unprovoked, allegedly used frying pan to hit classmate

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Walt Whitman High School.

File photo

After a Walt Whitman High School student was assaulted with a frying pan in a temporary classroom last week, school officials say the temporary classes are safe.

At approximately 10:40 a.m. on Monday, 19-year-old Prince Cutchember allegedly walked up to the victim, who was sitting at a table at the front of the class, and hit him in the back of the head with the frying pan. The male victim fell to the ground and Cutchember hit him with the pan several more times, according to court records.

A teacher intervened and told Cutchember to leave the boy alone. The victim got up and ran out of the portable classroom along with his classmates.

He had injuries to his head, right arm and left calf, according to police. He was treated at the scene.

The victim told police the two had never spoken before, according to court records. Witnesses reported that Cutchember said “something about” the student he attacked “being a racist.”

When police arrived, Cutchember was outside, still holding the frying pan. He was “very agitated,” according to court records and was “constantly punching his knuckles together.”

Officers asked him several times to drop the pan, but Cutchember did not immediately comply. He eventually handed the pan to a security officer and was arrested.

Throughout the interaction, Cutchember was “non-verbal,” court documents say, but he nodded yes when asked if he did not take medicine to control his medically diagnosed schizophrenia.

Cutchember, who resides at a Bethesda homeless shelter, was charged with first-degree assault and remained incarcerated as of Friday afternoon, according to online court records. Attorney information for Cutchember was not available.

MCPS spends more than $3 million annually to lease its 436 portable classrooms, which are used to ease space constraints and crowding at many schools.

Relocatable classrooms are placed on existing paved areas and are assigned based on projected student enrollment, staff allocations and school programming, according to school system documents.

Often called “portables,” the buildings can be moved from school to school as enrollment fluctuates. Each is about 815 square feet and can accommodate as many students as a traditional classroom.

Parents and teachers often oppose portables largely because of safety concerns associated with less security and students having to travel from portables to the main building to use restrooms.

On Monday, MCPS spokesman Derek Turner said the assault did not occur because students were in a portable classroom.

“The unfortunate incident at Walt Whitman High School was not impacted by the location where it occurred,” Turner wrote in an email. “Incidents, like the aforementioned, can happen inside and outside of the main school building.”

He said MCPS is “well-staffed with security members in comparison to other school districts in the region.”

To promote safety, MCPS has invested in enhanced lighting, security cameras and security staff who “rove” between the main building and portables, Turner said.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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