As classes dismissed Wednesday afternoon, Principal Patricia M. Lampron ordered a 16-year-old girl to leave the grounds of the Dr. William Henderson Inclusion School, angering the teenager who responded by allegedly punching Lampron, according to a Boston police report.
The report, released to the Globe under a public records request, provided new details about the violent incident witnessed by students and staff at the K-12 Dorchester school that ended with the 61-year-old Lampron unconscious and a second staff member injured. The juvenile was taken into custody by Boston police and school security officers.
Lampron was unconscious for four minutes and visibly distressed when she regained consciousness, police wrote. She was rushed to a Boston hospital with serious injuries Wednesday, but is now recovering at home, the school department said. Her family provided an update on her condition on social media.
“Anyone who knows her knows how passionate she is about this school, its students and the Henderson School community. ... She will need time and support to recover from her injuries,” her family wrote. “She wants everyone to know that there is NO place for violence in our schools.”
The horrific attack shook the tight-knit Henderson community. Many of the more than 900 students at the school have significant physical, mental, and emotional disabilities.
The violence comes amid heightened tensions in schools, with many lacking resources and training to help students overcome traumas associated with the long pandemic. Lawrence High School, for example, recently experienced a series of brawls among students that raised safety concerns.
Dalida Rocha, who has three children at the Henderson Upper School, said she hopes Lampron and the other staffer recover quickly, and wishes the same for students who witnessed the attack. She questioned whether the school district did enough to help schools prepare for the challenges students would bring to classes this fall.
“We haven’t done a good job as a society to help children to deal with the traumatic experiences they have gone through with the pandemic,” she said. “I’m worried the transition from being at home to being back at school was not intentional across the school system to deal with the emotion of students and the trauma they have been experiencing. I’ve been extremely concerned that this would manifest into something like what unfortunately happened on Wednesday.”
The attack also adds to the loss some students have been experiencing, said another parent.
“Kids feel like school is a safe place and that has been taken away,” said Latoya Gayle, whose son is a first-grader at the Henderson’s lower campus. “How do we make those kids feel safe again at school?”
Roxann Harvey, chair of the Boston Special Education Parent Advisory Council, said her group has been hearing concerns that a shortages of special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and other positions is having an adverse impact on the social and emotional wellbeing of students.
“BPS needs to have a proactive and creative plan to build community and relationships with Black and Latinx students and families to help with the healing process of returning from the COVID pandemic,” she said. “It will take a whole city approach to resolve these issues. Suspensions and expulsions are not a substitute for restorative justice, healing, or trauma informed school practices.”
School psychologists across the country have reported anecdotally they’re seeing a rise in behavioral disturbances, but currently no national data exist, said Dr. Stacy Skalski, director of policy and practice at the National Association of School Psychologists. It’s important for school districts to investigate whether more violence is happening this year and address problems they find.
“The pandemic hasn’t gone away yet — there’s still continuing anxiety and stress related to that,” Skalski said. “Complicating this return to school is the fact that what we used two to three years ago may or may not be sufficient for this year.”
The Boston school system planned to have every school this year have at least one social worker and family liaison on staff. The district also has been adding guidance counselors and nurses.
But Xyra Mercer, a Henderson 12th-grader, said she and her peers believe school officials need new responses to emotionally charged incidents, some of which are a result of the social isolation during the pandemic.
“Social-emotional training for BPS employees [is needed] to prevent situations like this occurring ever again with more restorative practice being used as well,” said Mercer, who is also the student representative on the Boston School Committee. “Some students don’t have the best living situation or life in general, and when teachers and staff suspend or kick the student out without having some kind of sit-down talk or intervention, sadly bad things happen.”
Superintendent Brenda Cassellius and other administrators met with Henderson parents Thursday night on Zoom. The school district, in an unusual move, closed the upper school on Thursday and Friday to give students time to process the attack. Students in grades 2-6 will return Monday and those in 7-12 will return Tuesday.
Cassellius told parents that she spoke with Lampron and said she was recovering at home.
“I wanted to let you all know that she is OK, and she wanted me to let you know that, as well,” she said.
Cassellius said there was a previous threat against Lampron, but that it did not appear to be related to Wednesday’s attack. She declined to elaborate, saying Lampron asked that the specifics not be made public.
The exact circumstances leading up to Wednesday afternoon’s assault remain unclear, although some parents suggested there had been some kind of ongoing dispute. School officials, due to student privacy laws, were unable to provide details, while the girl’s family could not be reached for comment.
Citing another staffer, the police report said Lampron has approached the girl outside school and asked her to leave the area because school had ended. The girl told Lampron “to stop following her,” according to the police report. “At this point the suspect began throwing closed fisted strikes at [Lampron’s] head.”
Lampron fell to the ground and the student was eventually taken into custody. The juvenile “briefly stated that the staff would not stop following her and that is why she got mad,” police wrote.
The girl was arraigned Thursday on three charges of juvenile delinquency: one count of assault and battery on a person over age 60 causing serious injury, and two counts of assault and battery on a public employee.
Judge Helen Brown-Bryant set bail in the amount of $5,000 and ordered the juvenile to have no contact with Lampron and to stay away from the school. She has to submit to GPS monitoring and remain under home confinement if she is released on bail, according to Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins.
Rollins said the juvenile will be prosecuted, and added that her office is “working to make sure this juvenile gets the treatment and services she clearly needs based on this violent, unprovoked attack.”
“This frightening attack comes amid a rise in violence and aggression against educators and school employees,” Rollins said. “Teachers working in Lawrence Public Schools have raised serious concerns about violence in their schools. We have heard the stories of violence and threats against educators as they work to provide safe and healthy schools for children to learn and thrive.”
Mayor-elect Michelle Wu called the attack “an incredibly horrific, tragic situation.”
“We need, particularly in this moment coming out of the pandemic, when there’s been such stress, anxiety, trauma on our families, to be putting more resources into social and emotional supports, into the wrap-around services that our schools should be providing,” Wu said.
Travis Andersen and Bianca Vázquez Toness of the Globe staff and correspondent Jeremy C. Fox contributed to this report.
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