UD's Bob Carpenter Center has been the site for multiple Christina School District graduations.

Christina votes to stop graduations at UD after student arrest

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

UD's Bob Carpenter Center has been the site for multiple Christina School District graduations.

UD’s Bob Carpenter Center has been the site for multiple Christina School District graduations.

Christina School District will no longer hold its graduation at the University of Delaware.

The Tuesday night decision by the School Board came after a recent incident in which UD police arrested an 18-year-old star student on graduation day.

Holding graduation on UD’s campus has cost Christina $98,129. That includes access to a campus building and parking lot as well as hiring UD security for the ceremony.

“I plan to bring this issue back on the agenda until this issue is resolved and in each meeting we’ll progressively sanction UD,” said board member Naveed Baqir, who has been leading the charge to punish UD. 

He plans to demand a refund for the 2023 graduation from UD at Christina’s August board meeting “for failure to provide appropriate and compassionate event security leading to a violent arrest.”

The board voted near the end of a five-hour plus board meeting to move its  graduations out of UD’s Bob Carpenter Center unless UD admits their treatment of the Mohammed Sanogo was wrong and drops the charges against him.

“We are waiting for the results of the case to determine possible additional actions or steps,” said  board President Don Patton.

Dozens of community members have spoken out against UD police with accusations of police misconduct, excessive use of force and racial and religious bias. 

RELATED STORY: Christina’s Baqir: Review UD contracts after cop incident

Sanogo, a student with a  grade point average above a 4.0 and plans to attend the University of Maryland to pursue aerospace engineering, was arrested at UD June 15.

It happened less than 45 minutes after receiving his diploma during Newark High School’s graduation.

Sanogo was charged with resisting arrest and reckless driving and accused of trespassing. 

The incident began when officers approached a handful of people including Sanogo who were engaging in a Muslim group prayer in the parking lot. 

A UD police officer told them they had to leave.

Three cars of teenagers were on their way out of the parking lot, but as Sanogo’s car left, his car made a screeching noise, which witnesses blamed on new tires. Two police cars “boxed in” Sanogo.

Sanogo opened his car door at an officer’s request and officers dragged him out and pinned him against the car after Sanogo was struggling and slightly resisting, according to witnesses who are friends of Sanogo. 

An officer picked up Sanogo and slammed him into tall grass. Sanogo has asthma and kept repeating that he couldn’t breathe.

He was arrested and held overnight, released at 4 a.m. with a $200 unsecured bail.

Christina board member Naveed Baqir, witnesses and dozens of public commenters characterized the event as an abuse of power, excessive force and driven by religious or racial biases.

The university has adamantly denied any allegations that its police officers acted with racial or religious bias.

UD has not released police body-cam footage. It did issue a statement saying UD Police applied appropriate de-escalation techniques in dealing with a suspect who was resisting arrest in order to ensure the safety of all who are involved, including the suspect.

Christina’s financial ties to UD

Christina currently has 17 contracts or invoices with UD totaling a financial hit of $249,372.92.

Here’s how the money is allocated:

  • $46,746 –  Bob Carpenter Center for graduations 
  • $121,250 – Delaware Academy of School Leadership consulting and training
  • $3,000 – Horn Entrepreneurship EntreX Lab program for Glasgow High School. The program equips students to thrive in rapid change by cultivating agile thinking and developing their creative problem-solving skills.
  • $1,100 – Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) conference, 4H Embryology and Education Day. 4H Embryology teaches youth about the development life-cycle of a chicken through a hands-on experiential learning model.
  • $415 – 4H Embryology 
  • $125 – 4H Embryology 
  • $3,750 – Delaware Teachers Institute, which is an educational partnership between the University of Delaware and five New Castle County school districts: Christina, Colonial, New Castle County Vocational-Technical, Appoquinimink and Red Clay Consolidated. The Institute is designed to strengthen teaching and learning in the community’s public schools. It offers seminars on subjects that school teachers request in the humanities and sciences, and which best fit contemporary needs among the student population.
  • $150 – 4H Embryology
  • $18,814.92 – Bob Carpenter Center Christina School District back-to-school event 
  • $7,500 – Horn Entrepreneurship EntreX Lab program for Newark High School 
  • $380 – HOSA conference, 4H Embryology 
  • $199 – Delaware Academy for School Leadership (DASL) Dare to Lead cohort. This program helps develop educators who aspire to be school leaders in any leadership role. 
  • $199 – DASL Dare to Lead cohort 
  • $1,677 – Women’s Leadership Conference, 4H Embryology 
  • $51,383 – Final invoice for contract for Bob Carpenter Center (graduation)
  • $684 – Ice skating school trip
  • $2,000 – Policy and Practice Institute, Education Day. The institute is focused on  networking and has a professional learning event for educators, school leaders and policymakers across the state. 

Board reorganization

Also in the meeting, Christina’s newly elected school board members – YunFei Luo and Douglas Manly – were sworn in. 

Don Patton was chosen as board president and Alethea Smith-Tucker as vice president. Patton takes over for Keeley Powell and Smith-Tucker replaces Claire O’Neal. 

Patton said some of his main priorities is to ensure the board is transparent and that people in the district are held accountable.

 “But the number one issue moving forward that will occur in this body is that we will have seen outcome-focused decisions around data. We don’t make decisions just to make them, we’ll make them to make sure they have an impact on our kids…thank you to my colleagues that have elevated me to this position and I’ll do everything I can to make sure that I earn it.” 

Smith-Tucker also thanked the other board members.

“I’m here primarily to support this increased outcomes and expectations for young people and doing so by supporting our children, the staff, the parents and my board colleagues,” she said.

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