Frank Burd, the Germantown High School teacher whose neck was broken in late February, today finally got his chance to confront the two students who assaulted him.
"I don't understand this," Burd, 60, referring to his attack, told James Footman, 15, and Donte Boykin, 18, before they were sentenced in Philadelphia Juvenile Court to stints in detention facilities for their roles.
"People ask me, 'So what do I want to happen to these kids,'" Burd said.
"It's very confusing for me," he said. "I'm really glad I don't have to make this decision."
The severity of Burd's injuries from the Feb. 23 attack heightened concern and raised public awareness about violence against teachers in the city's schools.
Burd struggled to retain his composure when he showed Footman and Boykin three photographs of his family so they could see that he had a life outside of Germantown High School and people who loved him.
He accepted apologies from each young teen. And when they extended their hands, he shook them. Boykin hugged his former Algebra II teacher and told him again he was sorry. Burd hugged him back and replied that he knew he was.
Judge Kevin Dougherty, administrative judge of Family Court, sternly told Footman and Boykin that he would now be in control over them for up to four years or until they turned 21, and that he would be closely monitoring their behavior.
"You must understand," Dougherty said, "you're walking into my world, and you will do what I say."
He ordered ninth grader Footman, who turned 15 the day after the attack, to a stay of indeterminate length at one of the state's secure youth detention centers.
Footman had pleaded guilty last month to aggravated assault, conspiracy and related charges for punching Burd in the face three times.
Dougherty said that the state center was the most secure type of facility available and would provide Footman with the remedial education, structure and intensive emotional and behavioral support that the records showed Footman needs.
Boykin, a senior, was sent to George Junior Republic, in Grove City in Western Pennsylvania, a residential facility where he will be able to complete his high school education.
Boykin, who pleaded guilty three weeks ago to a single charge of aggravated assault, admitted following Burd into the hallway and pushing him twice after Burd confiscated his iPod in algebra class.
Boykin's actions caused Burd to fall into Footman, who happened to be in the hallway because he was cutting class.
Footman knew neither Burd nor Boykin.
The veteran math and theater teacher, who was not paralyzed, spent 11 days at Albert Einstein Medical Center. Doctors removed bone from his hip and implanted it in his neck to help heal the fractures.
Footman, who was a special-education student, had been placed in programs for emotionally disturbed students in the school district.
Boykin, who had no prior criminal record, had been planning to attend college.