Philadelphia student admits role in teacher assault

April 6, 2007
Teacher suffered a broken neck after he confiscated student's iPod.

A high school senior in Philadelphia has pleaded guilty in juvenile court to aggravated assault in connection with a February attack that left his teacher with a broken neck and a concussion. Donte Boykin, 17, persisted in playing his iPod in algebra class despite repeated warnings, then followed teacher Frank Burd into the hallway and pushed him twice after the teacher confiscated his music device. The 60-year-old teacher fell toward ninth grader James Footman, who was cutting class. Footman, 15, who knew neither Boykin nor Burd, punched the teacher in the face three times.

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In the latest acts of violence in the Philadelphia School District, an elementary school principal was knocked to the ground by a female student, and three teachers were assaulted in the last two days. The most recent attack happened on a day when leaders converged on West Philadelphia High School to talk about solutions to the problems there and an afternoon fire prompted yet another evacuation. The assault on the principal, which triggered one arrest, happened at Kenderton Elementary, when Robin Wilkins tried to break up a scuffle between a seventh-grade girl and eighth-grade girl. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Despite a change in principals and a crackdown in security, chaos continued at West Philadelphia High School yesterday, with two fires set in the building, evacuations, threats against a teacher, and seven student arrests. The student unrest has been fueled in part by the district's decision last week to remove Principal Clifton James after a rash of assaults on teachers and staff at the 1,100-student school. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

For many students at West Philadelphia High School, the topic of conversation is a recent uptick in violence and turmoil at the school and the removal of the principal. There have been at least six assaults of school staff in the last two weeks and at least 17 so far this school year. Many students said they were unaware of a new district policy calling for harsher penalties for students who attack adults and including the creation of a teacher-safety hotline. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

A day after Philadelphia schools chief executive Paul Vallas and Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson announced a new approach to attacks against district teachers, the policy faced an immediate test at a school that has been rocked by a series of assaults. Wednesday morning, a nonteaching assistant was trying to clear a hallway at West Philadelphia High School when a student "sucker-punched" him. It was the sixth assault at the school in two weeks and at least the 17th there this year, according to teachers union officials. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

In the midst of criticism of its handling of teacher assaults, the Philadelphia School District has announced a crackdown, including the immediate establishment of a teacher safety hotline and more stringent penalties for offenders. The heightened vigilance will extend to the Police Department. Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson has promised to have officers respond to all calls of assaults at schools and make arrests if the victim approves. Previously, principals or other disciplinarians have been given some discretion on whether an assault should result in an arrest. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Since music teacher Ed Klein's jaw was broken at West Philadelphia High School in November, assaults against staff members have continued, including one Monday in which a teacher who walks with a cane was slapped by a student--the second time in six weeks he was attacked. Union officials say there have been at least 16 assaults against staff members there this school year. The problem arises as the Philadelphia School District faces mounting concerns about violence against staff members in its 270-plus schools. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

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