By Griffin Boswell
At around 10:41 AM on September 16 at Walt Whitman High School, a 15-year-old student was attacked by a 19-year-old student. Police Captain Tom Jordan later confirmed that the weapon was “a frying pan, of all things.” The attacker, who was later identified as 19-year-old Prince Cutchember, ambushed the victim around fourth period, hitting the victim several times with a frying pan. The victim was treated for their injuries and was released from school promptly. To add to the chaos, about 30 minutes later at 11:15, the school’s fire alarm was pulled, forcing the school to temporarily evacuate. MCPS spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala later confirmed that there was no correlation between the two incidents. On September 18, Cutchember was charged with one count of first-degree assault, which could mean up to 25 years in prison for the 19-year-old.
While official police reports suggest that the attack appeared unmotivated, some members of the Whitman community believe the attacks may have been racially motivated. “It's sad that these things happen here, it should never happen here, but here we are,” says a Whitman senior, “Racism happens here, no question.''
In April of this year, an image of two white Whitman high school students wearing blackface while using racial slurs made its way to headlines in the Washington Post. However, no criminal charges were pressed against the students involved. According to the MCPS reports of Whitman’s enrollment in the 2018-2019 school year, only 3.5% of the total students enrolled were African American. Since 1989, the number of black students enrolled at Whitman has never crossed above 4.8%.
In the comment section of a Bethesda Beat article written about the attack, user “whitman kid” said, “...Literally all of those group home kids have criminal records.” In response to this comment, user “Bethesda Dad” said, “Great to know my kids are going to school with kids like you who immediately judge and talk bad about anyone who comes from a different background or upbringing than their Bethesda glass tower...I’ve already heard that this may have been provoked by the victim making racist comments to the older student...I’ve lived here a long time and teaching your kids diversity is a good thing is not something the Whitman community promotes for the most part.”
Pans and posters of pans have been confiscated at recent sporting events against Whitman. Nevertheless, the racially underpinned incident reminds us that a sentiment we thought was no longer an issue may still a major part of society today.