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Police investigating alleged assault of St. Paul assistant principal by student

November 25, 2018

A 12-year-old boy who attends a St. Paul school for students with mental health needs allegedly struck an assistant principal in the head four times this month, leaving the woman with a concussion.

Police are investigating.

The Nov. 12 incident comes three years after a teacher at St. Paul’s Central High School was beaten by a student and suffered injuries that ended his career.

Since then, court cases involving student-on-staff violence have been on the decline in St. Paul, from 15 in 2015 to two cases thus far this year, according to the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office.

But efforts continue elsewhere to promote school safety. One such endeavor ­— being co-led by a retired teacher who had been assaulted by a student in Edina — has a website and now is seeking to gain traction.

The Nov. 12 incident occurred at RiverEast Elementary and Secondary School, a K-8 school that provides students with therapeutic services. According to police spokesman Steve Linders, the boy reportedly got into trouble for drawing on walls and tearing up signage. “He was out of control,” Linders said.

About 3:05 p.m., the assistant principal was in her office with the boy, sitting behind her desk and calling his foster parents, when the boy went around the desk and punched her in the head, police said.

Staff restrained the boy, and his foster parents arrived to pick him up.

The assistant principal went to the hospital on her own and was diagnosed with a concussion, police said.

The broader school community was not informed of the incident at the time.

School district spokesman Kevin Burns said that’s because the alleged assault occurred in an office away from other staff and students and because the district wanted to protect the student’s confidentiality and the assistant principal’s privacy.

Creating awareness

Finding ways to make schools safer for students and staff members has been a mission for Deborah York, the former Edina teacher.

Two years ago, she worked with state Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, on a bill strengthening requirements that teachers be notified when kids with violent pasts are placed in their classrooms.

Now, York and her sister, Soni Styrlund, hope to establish a nonprofit group, The Safe Schools Movement, that would seek to give students a greater voice and include features like a “teacher/student protection hotline” that people could call for support and to learn more about their rights when it comes to school safety.

The two received help with branding and website content (at safeschoolsmovement.org) from CLAgency, a student-run advertising firm within the University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts.

“Ensuring that teachers, students, staff and parents feel safe and respected within their classrooms is integral to the mission of Safe Schools Movement,” said Cate Tynjala, a U undergraduate who worked on the project.

CLAgency’s participation ends next month, but Tynjala hopes to continue serving as a volunteer.

For York and Styrlund, the next assignment could be a tough one: try to get funding help from the state.

anthony.lonetree@startribune.com • 612-673-4109

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