Reported by Kacie Whaley
The climate at a Southwest Philadelphia high school has been extremely tumultuous in recent years. This week, yet another of its teachers was knocked unconscious.
Pewu Johnson was substituting an English class at John Bartram High School when he saw a female student sitting on a male student’s lap, as NBC10 reported. Johnson, 68, said he told the students to stop, and told them that their actions were “against school regulations.”
“He told me ‘get the f*ck out of my face,'” Johnson said.
That was when the male student grabbed Johnson and body-slammed him to the ground, causing the substitute to hit his head so hard that he suffered a concussion. Footage after the attack shows Johnson lying on the floor while student onlookers surround him.
“The boy dropped me down with so much force,” said Johnson. “I was out.”
Johnson was rushed to the hospital and treated for his head injury. He is now at home recovering from pain in his neck. “I am feeling really bad when it comes to twisting my head to look on my right or left,” he said. “I was lucky that it didn’t break my neck.”
Johnson said that after he recovers, he will continue teaching, even possibly substituting at Bartram again. He added that he is considering pressing charges against the boy who attacked him.
“The assault that occurred yesterday is the result of an individual making a dramatically poor choice,” reads Bartram High School’s statement regarding the attack. “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.”
This is the third assault on a teacher to occur at this school in less than a month. It is also the school’s second media-reported incident involving a student knocking out a school employee. In March, a 17-year-old slammed a “conflict resolution specialist” into a wall. The employee fractured his skull. The student was arrested.
Jerry Jordan, the president of the Philadelphia Teacher’s Union, said that Bartram’s issues are due to lack of additional personnel that would typically prevent violence.
“Young people are not properly being supervised because the district has eliminated the services of non-instructional support personnel,” Jordan said.
Earlier this year, teachers reported that because of lack of necessary employees, staff are left to fend for themselves, and were even told not to bother calling for help before 9:30 a.m. because no one would be available to assist, according to philly.com.
“There are fights constantly,” said one teacher, who asked to remain anonymous. “I call downstairs for help – sometimes they answer and sometimes they don’t.”
“They’ve told us we’re not allowed to call 911 or we’ll be written up,” said social studies teacher Stephen Pfeiffer. Three other school employees confirmed Pfeiffer’s claim.
For now, both teachers and students attend the school unaware of the danger that any given day may bring.
“There is great fear among the students and the staff here at Bartram,” said Antoinette Calimag, a teacher at the high school. “It’s a challenge to come everyday.”