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Clash between truancy officers & Frankford High junior is probed

Less than a week before facing a Juvenile Court hearing last Friday for allegedly assaulting a Philadelphia School District police truant officer, a Frankford High School student was hailed as a hero of his football team's 40-34 victory Oct. 23 over Northeast High School.

Less than a week before facing a Juvenile Court hearing last Friday for allegedly assaulting a Philadelphia School District police truant officer, a Frankford High School student was hailed as a hero of his football team's 40-34 victory Oct. 23 over Northeast High School.

But the student, a 17-year-old junior whose name is being withheld because he is a juvenile, wasn't able to play in Friday night's game against Germantown.

That's because after an encounter Thursday inside Frankford High with two district police "truancy sweep" officers, the football player suffered a black eye, a bloody and swollen nose and cuts to his mouth that required five to six stitches, students and adult employees at Frankford High said.

In previous interviews with the Daily News, the student acknowledged that he had brushes with the law and had spent time at the Glen Mills Schools, a residential facility in Delaware County for court-adjudicated male delinquents between 15 and 18 years old. But he said that he had been trying to turn his life around.

One school official said that the student had not been a troublemaker since coming to Frankford, on Oxford Avenue near Wakeling Street, during his sophomore year.

"He got here last year and has never been in any fights," said the employee, who asked that his name not be used because he is not authorized to give statements to the news media.

"I was there at the very end and saw [the officers] do some pretty rough stuff," the school official said. "A lot of people there found it very disturbing. It was over the top.

"But it had nothing to do with Frankford school police," the school official said. He said that Frankford school police and other employees "had to pull the truancy police officers off" the student.

He said that a number of parents and school nonteaching aides also saw the incident. A videotape caught most of the scuffle, he said.

The Frankford employee said that he could only guess that the young man might have "mouthed off" at the truancy officers outside the school. They then followed him inside, where "they tried to grab him," the employee said.

Bria Bowie, a junior who talked with the injured student while he was still at the hospital emergency room for treatment, said that "no one at the school saw him throw a punch."

"When he was in the hospital, he was lying in the bed, and he said, 'I didn't do anything,' " Bowie said. "He didn't curse, he didn't mouth off. He wouldn't do that."

Neither the young man nor his grandmother returned several phone calls from the Daily News seeking comment.

According to Bowie, the injured student said to her:

"I told them I was already late to school, and that I had overslept."

The incident is now the subject of two investigations, the school district said.

Philadelphia police are investigating criminal charges against the teenager for allegedly punching an officer, and the school district is conducting an "internal affairs" investigation, district spokesman Vincent Thompson said.

Although the boy was treated at Aria Health, Frankford campus, school district officials said, the officer whom the boy allegedly punched did not require treatment.

"We are asking for people to come forward if there is any information they have," Thompson said.

Anyone who witnessed the scuffle at Frankford on Thursday can call the district's Office of School Climate and Safety at 215-400-6000.

"Anytime there is a physical altercation between a student and a staff member, we do an administrative investigation," said James Golden, the district's chief safety officer.

Golden said that the school officers involved in the incident were patrolling the neighborhood outside Frankford. They were not officers regularly assigned to the high school, Golden said.

According to Golden and Thompson, the incident began about 9:45 a.m. Thursday, well after school had begun for the day.

The two school-district truancy police officers saw the young football player walking on Oakland Street, near Harris, about a block from the school.

Golden said that the report didn't indicate whether the teen was walking toward his school.

But students said that they enter the school each morning through the Oakland Street side.

"That's where we go into the building," said Bowie, who said that she is the young man's best friend.

The police report said that the young man "ran" away from the officers when they tried to talk to him while he was still outside the school, Golden said.

But a Frankford High School official who was inside the building said that the teenager "did not run."

"He walked into the school and the officers walked in after him," said the official, who asked that his name not be published.

Another adult school employee who knows the student said that the young man put his book bag on a table to go through the school's security detectors when the officers "grabbed him and pushed him against a door."

When asked why truancy officers would try to stop a student from going into the school, Golden said that the district, the city and the city's police department all are working together for a "truancy-abatement program."

"When we do truancy sweeps, we have a targeted, specific strategy aimed at reducing truancy in the system," Golden said.

He said that the officers were trying to find out "why he was coming to school so late."

Golden said that he couldn't comment on details of the investigation.