Pennsylvania parents outraged after middle school student attacked with Stanley

Parents say the attack could have been prevented if the school had heeded their warnings.

By6abc Digital Staff, TaRhonda Thomas, Briana Smith WPVI logo
Monday, April 22, 2024
Parents outraged after middle school student attacked with Stanley cup
Montgomery County parents outraged after middle school student attacked with Stanley cup

NORTH WALES, Pa. -- More than 50 people packed a school district meeting Thursday night to voice concerns about an attack that left a student injured in Pennsylvania.

The assault happened on Wednesday afternoon around 1:20 p.m. in the cafeteria of the Pennbrook Middle School in North Wales.

According to Upper Gwynedd police, surveillance video shows a seventh grader walking along a lunch table when the accused student runs toward her and begins hitting her in the head with a Stanley cup.

"This was avoidable, and the district truly failed to protect the students at Pennbrook," one parent said at the meeting. "What are we supposed to say to our children after this? How do I send him back to school?"

"I just don't know what went wrong. How did it get to this point? I would like answers on that," another parent said.

The school district did not respond to any of the parents' questions at the meeting. Officials say the incident is under investigation.

Emily, a student at the school, witnessed the attack as others were eating lunch.

"I just hear all this screaming and everybody running. All of sudden you just hear these terrible loud bangs of the Stanley bouncing off her head," the student recalled. "We had to sit in there and watch them clean up the blood off those tables and ground, and we had to watch them take her out with blood dripping down her face, and I will never forget that."

Upper Gwynedd police described the incident as an "unprovoked, sudden, violent attack." They say the assailant came from behind and immediately began hitting the student.

"Next thing they heard was a bang," said Chris Pekula, whose daughter was only feet away from the victim.

Police say the victim's injuries are so severe she had to get staples in her head and is on concussion protocol.

A security guard jumped on the alleged assailant who held onto the victim for several more seconds. Once the victim was freed, a teacher can be seen on the video shielding her from other students and walking her into a hallway. Other kids in the cafeteria looked stunned as they witnessed it all.

"The fear in these kids' voices. This had to be a brutal attack because so many kids were screaming and crying," parent Megan Krache said.

Parents say the attack could have been prevented if the school had heeded their warnings.

"The students went to the counselor yesterday and said, 'We heard something's gonna happen at lunch today,'" said Stephanie Palovcak, of the warning she says other students gave to staff at Pennbrook Middle School Tuesday.

Palovcak's daughter called her amid the chaos.

"When you get a phone call from your child crying saying, 'Mom, help, there's blood everywhere,'" she said through tears.

Pennbrook Middle School was put on a hold for eight minutes as police and first responders came to the scene.

The school's principal, Nick Taylor, sent a letter to parents that says in part: "The safety of our students is of the utmost importance."

The letter went on to say, "I ask that parents speak with their children about the consequences of fighting."

"This isn't a fight. This is an assault," Palovcak said.

The parents say it all happened after the alleged attacker had been in the school for only three days as a new student. The student's first day was Monday. The incident happened on Wednesday.

"There were multiple parents who reached out about this child making threats," said Palovcak, of the worries parents had over the course of two days, including students describing the suspected assailant as having a list of people to beat up.

"I believe the people working at the school are good people; they do the best they can," said Pekula. "My question is what happened between that warning and the attack"

Stefan Ross said his son went to the student's previous school.

"The person came out from the trees and brandished a knife on my son and his friend," he said of an incident that allegedly happened off school grounds.

In a letter to parents, Superintendent Todd Bauer, denies the student was transferred to this school after being expelled for violent behavior at another school.

He spoke to concerned parents Thursday night saying, "This should not have happened, period. As an educator, your superintendent and a father, I'm appalled by what happened. We are currently pursuing the details leading up to this incident and why it occurred. We are also collaborating with our local law enforcement in their investigation as we work to ensure that something like this can't happen again."

Police say the accused student will likely face several charges, including felony aggravated assault.

Read the full statement from Pennbrook Middle School Superintendent Todd M. Bauer below:

"I am writing to you this evening regarding the serious incident that took place today during the seventh grade lunch. This afternoon, Dr. Taylor sent a communication to families (see below) immediately following the situation alerting you that an incident occurred and that a "hold" was put in place. Since that time, the administration has been working with law enforcement and the families of the students involved to better understand what happened so that we can provide updated and accurate information.
As a school district, we aspire to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for our students and staff. A student sustained serious injuries as a result of another student's actions. I have been in contact with this student's family and will continue to work with them throughout the recovery process. The family has requested and deserves privacy as the student recovers.

I also recognize that the other students present were alarmed and scared by what they witnessed. This is completely understandable, and Dr. Taylor has been working with our counseling department and the district-wide traumatic event response team to support students in the upcoming days. Dr. Taylor intends to meet with each grade tomorrow morning to address today's incident and to discuss the supportive measures that will be provided, including additional counselors.

I also want to acknowledge that there are rumors circulating regarding the other student involved in today's incident. Some have implied that the student was expelled from another NPSD middle school for violent in-school behavior and transferred to Pennbrook. It has also been reported that the student was expelled from another school for violent behavior. Both of these assertions are false. I have also been in contact with this family and recognize that they also need support as a result of this incident.

I know Pennbrook Middle School to be a safe school where our students learn and grow under the guidance of caring adults. Today's incident is extremely disappointing and concerning, but it does not represent the values and qualities you and I have grown to know. Tomorrow, we will take the necessary steps to restore your confidence and support our students and staff in the process of healing from today's traumatic incident. We will also continue to work with local law enforcement to support their investigation."

You can read that statement and more concerning this incident at