It only took six seconds for a transgender student to strike another Pennbrook Middle School student in the head with a Stanley tumbler, sending her to the hospital with a bleeding head wound.

Last week, a group of parents protested the district’s handling of the incident outside the North Penn administration building. They were outraged that the 13-year-old assailant had a “hit list” and that two girls had warned a guidance counselor about the troubled student that morning. The girls said the student had planned to assault specific students during the 7th-grade lunch period. Yet, district officials failed to prevent the attack, and the counselor told the girls who warned her not to worry.

Parents and residents remained upset when the district held a virtual Safe Schools Committee meeting Monday night.

Todd Bauer, Ed.D. told participants that adults quickly responded and stopped the attack on the 12-year-old girl during the April 17 incident. And, Bauer said, the district is going to hire an independent, third-party investigator to look into the case.

Andrew Pushart of Lansdale said, “Two things stood out” to him. One was that Bauer had not learned about the threats before the incident, and the other was the “template” generic email that Principal Nick Taylor sent to parents instead of a message that was specific to the incident.

He also noted the board will not approve its third-party investigator until mid-May and that other steps planned are forming committees.

“Is the climate at North Penn such that teachers and administrators just toe the line and don’t use common sense?” Pushart asked. “There’s the five monkeys experiment where they just keep doing things over and over again because of the way they’ve always been done.”

“It seems to me it’s kind of kicking the can down the road. In aviation, if we had an incident, we didn’t wait two weeks, three weeks, to do the initial, ‘Hey, here’s what we’re going to do.’”

“What are you doing right now to prevent this from happening again?”

Committee Chair Jonathan Kassa asked Bauer to address that question.

“We’re not going to wait for a report to fix things,” said Kassa.

Bauer said they’ve increased security at the school buildings, increased police presence, and reminded students and adults about the Safe to Say program.

“Other things have been put into place that we wouldn’t share publicly,” said Bauer. “You have to be very careful when you’re talking about school security.”

Dan Bucciarelli  of Lansdale said, “The problem is committees and bureaucrats like yourself who are ducking commonsense solutions and having staff that will report any red flag that comes up in the school.”

“My daughter attended Pennbrook two years ago,” he said. “And there were plenty of similar situations where students were going to staff. And the fact that upper levels, whoever, don’t have this knowledge…This has been an ongoing thing.

“When is somebody going to take ownership and resign?” he asked.

North Wales resident Susan Dziedzic, a parent and former public school teacher, said there is a board policy to address student threats that requires procedures for students whose behavior might be a threat to safety. She asked if officials are addressing specific student behaviors over time.

“That’s important.” The policies exist to “stop exactly what happened at Pennbrook from happening,” she said. “The staff needs clear choices for additional options for reporting threatening behavior if they feel their reports to admin are not being taken seriously.”

Jason Lanier of Lansdale said the school’s disciplinary system is clearly failing.

“What is the restorative discipline you’re giving kids additional breaks over and over again for breaking the rules in the school? It gets worse and worse. I know that this assailant had a long history and yet being put back in classrooms. Why? Was it this restorative nonsense where you’re trying to pad your discipline stats?

“Why is it that the Safe to Say website shows that violence at North Penn middle schools is several times the county average?” he added. “When do you establish a threshold that would constitute an acceptable level of risk for students?”

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