A Philadelphia substitute school teacher with a dedicated history to Philadelphia and its schools has spent the weekend recuperating from a concussion he suffered at the hands of one of his students at Bartram High School on Thursday.
Sixty-eight year old Liberian immigrant Pewu Johnson was picked up and slammed to the ground, hitting his head on the hard school floors, immediately falling unconscious. The immediate wake of the incident was captured on another student’s cell phone.
The assault on Johnson marks the school’s third assault in a month, which comes as a blow to a school that had hopes its violence was beginning to ebb.
According to school officials, the altercation stemmed from Johnson asking a young man to leave his classroom earlier in the day for defying school behavior codes by allowing a young woman to sit on his lap in an inappropriate manner. When the student refused Johnson’s request to extricate himself from the young lady, Johnson asked the young man to leave the room.
Later in the day, that same student waited to confront Johnson during seventh period, allegedly yelling out, “Get the f#ck out of my face!” before picking Johnson up and slamming him on his back to the hard school floor, where Johnson bore a majority of the act with the back of his head, resulting in being knocked unconscious and suffering a concussion. You can see a video immediately following the attack below:
Johnson stated in an interview Friday:
He grabbed me, then lifted me up, then dropped me on my back, on the floor. I became unconscious. I wasn’t hearing anything. I was out.
After the attack, witnesses say the student fled the scene and the school nurse tended to Johnson until he could be transported to a local hospital. He stated that he still has intense pains in his neck and had been bleeding from an elbow directly following the attack. He had to spend many hours at a local hospital as a result of his injuries. As of now, he is unsure as to when he will be returning to teaching.
Like most videos captured on cell phones these days centering around ugly fights and drama, the video quickly began circulating social media. Several students took to tweeting about the incident, as well. On student tweeted, for example:
Old head got put to sleep in Bartram.
Many other disrespectful tweets chimed in, as well.
Philadelphia School District spokesperson Fernando Gallard stated:
The School District does not tolerate this type of behavior and is working with Bartram High School and Philadelphia Police to make sure that the student is disciplined and also charged.
Gallard also stated:
This is a grave concern to us. The student has been suspended. He will be referred for expulsion. . . . There’s a need to press charges. These things need to be discouraged.
Johnson, who is trained as a city planner, has been a substitute teacher for 14 years and admits it can be difficult. He stated:
I’ve been abused and bullied.
Thursday, however, was the first time he was ever physically attacked.
Bartram High School of Southwest Philadelphia has been in the media numerous times over the prior school year due to violence. It’s unfortunately nothing new there. Last March, for example, one staffer was knocked unconscious by a student. Ironically, that staff personnel was the school’s conflict resolution specialist. That should offer readers some idea of the atmosphere at Bartram.
Just last month, on October 9, another student punched a teacher in the face. Why? So students could get out to the hallway in order to see a fight. One young lady wanted to rush out and get a good look. When the teacher stepped in the way to stop her, another senior class member punched the teacher right in the face. That teacher was also attended to by the school nurse.
Even more recently, a teacher was pushed down to the floor by a freshman attempting to steal the instructor’s laptop, injuring the teacher’s back. That happened Oct. 21.
It’s easy to see why staff may be a bit frazzled. Due to the all the recent violence, 10 police officers now patrol Bartram on a daily basis. Footage also shows metal detectors are in place at the school.
The extra police presence, as well as a second principal, have helped curb the violence somewhat, though. Newly hired principal Abdul-Mubdi Muhammad has really focused on enforcing school codes and rules this year in an attempt to reign in student behavior.
However, one teacher clearly still frustrated with the environment stated:
Mr. Muhammad has been advocating for more resources, but they haven’t sent us any help. A lot of people feel that this is a pressure cooker about to explode again.
That instructor only spoke on the condition he/she remain anonymous.
While Muhammad is considered to have made some strides in curbing violence in the school, he admits that they started pretty far down the rabbit hole. He stated:
[W]e started with a huge deficit.
Another staffer who wished to remain anonymous feels that the school has been slowly improving over the last year, stating that students used to openly smoke cigarettes and marijuana in the hallways, but that such behavior has nearly disappeared.
Most everyone on staff agrees, however, that lack of staff remains a primary problem.
One teacher stated:
They call for hall sweeps on the loudspeaker, but there’s nobody to sweep the hallway. There’s still ample students walking the hall, and ample fights.
Muhammad remains optimistic and determined, though, stating:
We’re trying to develop a culture here. We have to rebuild the idea that this is an academic setting, that no, you can’t do that thing you could do last year. There must be visible consequences for everyone.
Muhammad is a former math teacher at Olney and Masterman schools, as well as a former charter school assistant principal.