A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Confiscation of iPod leads to broken neck

There are no words for this. No words. From the Philadelphia Enquirer via our beloved QuakerDave:
Assaulted teacher is worried for students
By Mari A. Schaefer

Hooked up to tubes and monitors, a metal brace drilled into his skull to immobilize his broken neck, Frank Burd worried how his students would fare on state tests next month now that he could not be there to help them.

"I want them to do well," said the 60-year-old math teacher from his bed at Albert Einstein Medical Center yesterday.

The popular Germantown High School teacher was critically injured Friday after he took an iPod from a student during class. He told the teenager that he would return it after the period.

When Burd went into the hall at the change of classes, two students assaulted him, officials said. He was either pushed or deliberately tripped. Burd fell into a locker, striking his head and breaking his neck.

A security camera caught the assault, but Burd has no memory of the event, which also lacerated his scalp, leaving him in "excruciating pain" and "very exhausted."

What he does remember is music "so loud I couldn't teach."

Burd, a New York native, "simply can't believe" the assault occurred, he said. He was in intensive care and heavily sedated, but still able to joke with his visiting brother, Bill.

"I've defused a lot of fights," said Frank Burd, who explained that he always tried to get students to look at "the bigger picture" to solve their problems.

Two male students, who have not been publicly identified, have been charged as juveniles with aggravated assault and related charges, police said. One is 17, the other 15.

Paul Vallas, the district's chief executive, said yesterday that the two students would not return to Germantown High. The courts may determine where they end up, he said.

"This is the most serious incident I have had here in five years," Vallas said. He said he spent a few hours at the hospital yesterday talking with Burd about Germantown High and teaching philosophy.

Bill Burd, 52, of Elkins Park, received a call about 20 minutes after the assault and went directly to the hospital, he said. Doctors said early on that his brother's spinal cord was not injured. "It was a great relief," he said.

He said his brother was involved in the school's yearbook and theater program, and was the school's unofficial photographer. "He is a born teacher," Bill Burd said.

Frank Burd, who has four sons, said he would have a 41/2-hour operation Wednesday. A piece of his hip will be removed and implanted into his neck to repair the damage. At that point, the halo brace he is wearing will come off.

The web of metal rods is drilled into his skull in four places. He will still have to wear a less-sophisticated brace until the injury heals.

Burd said he did not know when he would be able to return to teaching.

"He is really dedicated," Vallas said. He said Burd had called over to the high school from the hospital Friday to let the students know how he was doing. "He didn't want his students to worry."

The tests Burd is worried about are the important PSSA examinations, state-mandated tests used to measure performance in the classroom.

Vallas said Burd's students were very upset about what had happened to their teacher.

"They like him because he cares about them and really has a bond with them," he said.

Vallas said that "never once" did he hear Burd lash out at the two students accused of injuring him.



Kudos to district officials for proclaiming that those two thugs will not be back to Germantown High. It's actually for their own good-- when I once had a kid take a few swipes at me as I tried to stop a melee, even though he never laid an actual finger on me, there were six or seven young men whom I had to assure I was all right and who were quite incensed that someone would try to harm me. Luckily, and for reasons beyond his trying to flail at a teacher, he never returned to our school-- even though he ended up experiencing no consequences thanks to Assistant Principal Plea Bargain (AP PB claimed he didn't remember from the videotape that the little blister tried to whale on me multiple times-- and he conveniently also forgot my re-enactment for him, and did I mention he "lost" the referral?). The young fella's parents actually approached me in the hallway hours later and HUGGED me -- after I had already had enough physical contact with their offspring to last a lifetime, thankyewverrrymuch! What bothered me about the whole thing was that the young man has no record of having attempted to assault a teacher. But students who observed the whole thing were incensed.

Mr. Burd luckily did not suffer any spinal damage. I can't imagine, though, that that surgery at the age of 60 is going to be a cakewalk. God bless him. He is in my prayers for a swift recovery.

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At 2/26/07, 6:24 AM, Anonymous mrschili said...

I'm also at a loss. What is it about our society that teaches kids that this is an okay way to behave?!

At 2/26/07, 4:32 PM, Blogger Mrs. Bluebird said...

Considering some of the ways I've seen parents behave, I'd say they're learning a lot of this behavior at home.


At 2/27/07, 7:38 PM, Anonymous Mike said...

Neck injuries, at any point in life, tend to be permanently debilitating to various degrees. The charges should begin with attempted murder, and the victim should sue the parents of the little darlings within an inch of their lives. He'll need whatever he can get for his continuing medical care and disibility as he gets older. Caring about kids is laudable; caring about felons of any age is delusional.

At 2/27/07, 7:50 PM, Blogger Denever said...

"Vallas said that 'never once' did he hear Burd lash out at the two students accused of injuring him."

Where to begin ...

First, maybe the poor man is too busy recovering at this point to say anything about the criminals who assaulted him.

Second, "lashing out" is an odd choice of words. Certainly, it would be absolutely appropriate for the victim - and everyone else - to condemn this act of violence. "Lashing out" makes it sound as though doing so would be the verbal equivalent of the same violence the students committed.

Third, this teacher sounds like a wonderful man. But if, once he's better, he still won't say a word condemning what was done to him, there's something seriously wrong. Buddhists recognize a quality they call "idiot compassion." Giving these creeps a pass, for any reason, would be a perfect example of that.

At 2/28/07, 10:44 AM, Blogger eddyquette said...

Wow, how grateful am I that such behaviour doesn't occur yet at the small-town school my wife's currently teaching at... I agree with Denver to some extent. Forgiveness is one thing and compassion is a valuable personal quality, but justice needs to be served.

At 2/28/07, 12:48 PM, Blogger Denever said...

And those two things are not mutually exclusive. You can condemn someone's actions and demand that he be punished appropriately (e.g., jail term, as opposed to being drawn and quartered) -- and you can also forgive him, though that usually works best after a sincere apology has been tendered.

At 3/1/07, 6:43 PM, Anonymous mike curtis said...

Every day you live after being assaulted by a student should be devoted to making the student's parents wish they had never spawned. Use every means at your disposal to own everything they own and everything they ever wish to own...anything less just sets up another teacher assault. Without consequence, behavioral rules become merely suggestions.

At 3/2/07, 12:05 AM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

I completely agree. I imagine the poor man hasn't come out from under the painkillers enough to really understand that these little thugs could have killed him.


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