Lack of transparency from Pennsylvania school district in trans attack on 12-year-old girl leads to more questions

The members of the North Penn School District (NPSD) are seeking answers from stonewalling district officials after a trans student with a disciplinary history allegedly attacked a girl in a school…

The members of the North Penn School District (NPSD) are seeking answers from stonewalling district officials after a trans student with a disciplinary history allegedly attacked a girl in a school cafeteria.

The alleged student attacker reportedly had a long history of violence, and was previously enrolled in a disciplinary school inside the district, one teacher told The Lion.

The lunchtime attack was the capstone to days of warnings from district students, administrators and parents, who feared such an attack would happen, after the alleged assailant was transferred to the school just a few days before the assault.

“Some have implied that the student was expelled from NPSD middle school for violent in-school behavior and transferred to Pennbrook,” said district superintendent Todd Bauer, in a statement about the assault. “It has also been reported that the student was expelled from another school for violent behavior. Both of these assertions are false.”  

While technically correct, it doesn’t tell the whole story of the complicity of the district in the attack, said one teacher familiar with the case, who spoke to The Lion on the condition of anonymity because of fears of reprisal by the district.  

The trans student allegedly had been internally transferred inside the district several times dating back to elementary school because of behavioral issues, including violence or threats of violence, with one such transfer to a district disciplinary school, said the teacher.   

It’s unclear why the student was subsequently released to a general, mainstream school.   

The alleged violent tendencies of the student were so acute at the school where the assault occurred that the student required full-time supervision by a school administrator, said the teacher.  

When the administrator was unavailable because of pressing outside duties, the supervision was turned over to a guidance counselor, who allowed the student to go unsupervised for just a few minutes when the attack occurred.  

The alleged assailant asked permission to go alone to return a lunch tray to the cafeteria and attacked a 12-year-old girl at that time, according to accounts by a student witness who made public comments at a recent school board meeting. 

The girl addressed the board, asking why repeated warnings by students and parents about the danger the alleged assailant potentially posed were ignored by the school district.  

It should be noted that the website at the Pennbrook Middle School, where the attack took place, prominently features a graphic display asking students, “Feeling Unsafe At Home?” and “Worried About A Friend?” while recommending students “Safe Say Something” with a peace hand symbol imposed in between. 

The graphic then exhorts kids: “To keep you safe, WE ARE HERE TO HELP.”     

At a Safe Schools meeting on April 29, Bauer tried to characterize the attack as a two-way fight between two students, rather than the vicious attack described by the witness.  

He thanked security personnel for the “swift way” in which they intervened.    

“Both students involved were restrained and [the fight] was broken up in under six seconds,” Bauer said, according to a video of the meeting.  

But it was widely reported that only one of the students required hospitalization after the attack. And only one of the students later made a court appearance, charged with felony aggravated assault and related offenses. 

Bauer’s description of the attack with both students needing to be restrained also stands in contrast to previously reported eyewitness accounts. 

The assailant, who allegedly kept a “hit list” of students to attack, reportedly shouted “I’m gonna murder you” repeatedly, while hitting the victim with a large, metal Stanley tumbler, said the student-eyewitness, as previously reported by The Lion.  

One public commentor had a host of questions for the district’s Safe Schools Committee, asking why previous incidents didn’t lead to policy changes that might have prevented the recent attack.  

“We have 6th grade students who are scared to come to middle school…. We were promised that things would be done in the lunchroom in Pennbrook so the students could have a different sense and feeling. I’m still not seeing anything done in regards to that,” she said.  

She asked why the district waited until now to get a sense of urgency in creating a safe school environment for students. She also cast doubt on the objectivity of the third party the district has contracted with to investigate the attack and what the district could have done to prevent it. 

“How do we know it’s not going to be biased” in favor of NPSD? she asked.  

Bauer and members of the committee didn’t answer the questions, citing federal privacy protections and due process.