A Tragic Month (April 2004) for School Safety

A fatal student-versus-student stabbing in Florida and a student shooting a teacher in the leg in New York capped a particularly violent February at the nation's schools.

Several major incidents were reported during the month including the fatal bathroom stabbing of a 14-year-old boy at a Palmetto Bay, Fl, school. Police said one of the boy's friends who also attended Southwood Middle School had a knife in his backpack that authorities believe was used in the attack and had signed a statement admitting he had killed the teen. Michael Hernandez, 14, was charged with first-degree murder.

The incident shocked many at Southwood, a magnet school specializing in visual and performing arts located in an upper-middle class neighborhood.

A day earlier, a student at Ballou high School in Washington, DC, was gunned down in the school's hallway. Police believe Thomas Boykin, 18, fired several shots that struck 17-year-old James Richardson in the chest, mortally wounding him. Boykin was being held without bail on a second-degree murder charge.

In East Greenbush, NY, authorities said a 16-year-old student took a 12-gauge shotgun to Columbia High School and opened fire, wounding a teacher.

When the junior student, identified as Jon Romano, was spotted carrying the weapon in a third-flour hallway of the school, a teacher and administrator attempted to restrain him. Romano then reportedly fired at least three shots, one of which struck a special-education teacher in the right leg. Police said the teacher was not the intended target, but rather that he was wounded trying to prevent Romano from shooting another student. The teacher was treated and released from a local hospital.

Romano, 16 was charged with second-degree attempted murder. He was jailed without bail, and prosecutors said they expect to try him as an adult.

In North Philadelphia, PA, a 10-year-old boy died after being struck by a bullet during a gunfight outside Thomas M. Pierce Elementary School. The student, Faheem Thomas-Childs, was shot in a gun battle that police said included nearly 100 rounds fired from at least six different guns. Two arrests have been made in connection to the case.

In the Alief (TX) Independent School District, a fifth-grader accidentally shot himself while at Youens Elementary School, Houston. No other students or teachers were hurt in the incident, which involved a .38 semiautomatic pistol. According to authorities, the boy showed the pistol to another student. It discharged as the boy tucked it into his waistband, with the round striking him in the groin before continuing through his leg, his chair and into the floor. The boy was hospitalized in stable condition after the shooting.