A Philadelphia principal suffered serious injuries when he was struck in the face with a brick at dismissal — a symptom, some administrators say, of a larger problem at some city schools.
The incident happened Wednesday outside Fitler Academics Plus School in Germantown, officials said.
Anthious Boone, principal of the K-8 school, was overseeing dismissal when a fight broke out between Fitler students and pupils from various nearby Mastery Charter schools, officials said.
Boone waded into the fray to try to break it up, said Robin Cooper, president of Commonwealth Association of School Administrators Local 502, the union that represents principals.
"They beat the crap out of him," Cooper said. "They hit him in the face with a brick. They ganged up on him."
Boone was rushed to an emergency room for his injuries and symptoms — blurry vision, an eye scratched and swollen almost shut, and a headache. He needed eight stitches. His glasses were ruined. His suit, shirt, and shoes were "a bloody mess," Cooper said.
According to the police complaint, an unknown male student punched Boone in the eye, causing a cut. The police report did not mention a brick.
The assailant, who stands about 5 feet, 8 inches and weighs about 160 pounds, was seen running on West Seymour Street. Police had not made an arrest as of Thursday afternoon.
Boone, recovering at home on Thursday, declined to comment, but he authorized Cooper to discuss the incident.
Cooper said Boone's injuries were emblematic of wider issues .
"There are not enough safety resources," she said. "The principal has to jump in and stop fights, and he can't protect everybody alone. We just want safe schools."
Fitler, she said, does not have a full-time school police officer. Having such a person might have calmed the situation before it escalated, Cooper said.
Gloria Tankard, mother of two daughters who attend Fitler, said that some Mastery students had come to the school for the last two Wednesdays, early-dismissal days for Mastery schools.
"They get out of school, and they wait for the Fitler kids to come out, and they start fighting," Tankard said. "They walked in the schoolyard, and they started punching some seventh and eighth graders in the face, and they knocked some little kids down."
Both her girls have attended the school since first grade, Tankard said, and she has been pleased with its academics and, until now, her children's safety.
"It's a great school, but it feels like we're under attack," Tankard said. "The community needs to get involved."
One Fitler teacher sent home an email after the fight telling parents that the school had asked for help at dismissal, but did not receive it. She asked parents to either pick their children up Thursday or send relatives to do so.
"My daughter said it's a mess," Tankard said. "She doesn't understand why this is happening."
Lee Whack, a Philadelphia School District spokesman, said the school system was providing additional safety support at Fitler. It has also been in touch with Mastery to try to prevent future incidents.
The additional officers will remain at the school through the end of the year, Whack said.
"The safety of our students, staff and principals is always a top priority," Whack said in a statement. "Violence of any kind at our schools is unacceptable."
Scott Gordon, CEO of Mastery Charter Schools, said the organization was "deeply upset" with the actions of some of its students. Based on video of the incident, Mastery officials were able to identify some of the attackers as their students, including three from Mastery's disciplinary program.
"It's particularly upsetting. These are students we are trying to support," Gordon said. Students there have committed serious infractions and receive a range of help, including therapy and other services.
The attackers will go through due process, but could face expulsion, Gordon said.
On Thursday, Gordon and the principal at Mastery-Pickett went to Fitler "to express our horror" and to work on immediate and long-term steps. For now, Mastery staff will be stationed at Fitler during dismissal, and will work to identify and help students get past any interpersonal conflicts of the type that prompted the violence.
Mastery staff also talked about the fight with students Thursday, Gordon said. Students made a basket of get-well cards for Boone, and there is talk of having Pickett and Fitler students come together for a discussion to move toward healing.
"They were horrified," Gordon said. "We want something good to come out of this."