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Teacher Stabbed by Student Fears Return to Classroom

Times Staff Writer

Olive Vista Junior High School teacher Cynthia Edwards said Monday that she shudders when thinking about returning to the classroom where she was stabbed a week ago by one of her students.

“I want to cry a lot,” said Edwards, 37, in a telephone interview. “I keep asking myself, ‘Why? What did I do except try to teach?’ ”

Edwards, who is recovering at home after being released from the hospital Friday, said she was reviewing Homer’s “The Odyssey” shortly after lunch on March 6 when she was attacked by a 15-year-old boy who had been a disciplinary problem since transfering into her fifth-period English class in February.

The boy, whose name is being withheld because of his age, has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon. At a hearing Thursday, a juvenile court judge said that the boy had shown several students a knife and told them he was going to attack Edwards. He is being held at Sylmar Juvenile Hall.

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“He was having a disagreement with another young fellow, using a lot of profanity,” said Edwards, who taught in two East Los Angeles junior high schools for 10 years before tranferring to the Sylmar school in September.

The day before, the boy had been assigned to write “I will be quiet in Period 5 classes” 125 times as punishment for repeatedly speaking out of turn, Edwards said.

“The class was working but he kept interrupting,” Edwards said. “One student doesn’t have the right to interrupt the whole class, so I attempted to get rid of him as quickly as possible, but evidently I didn’t work quickly enough.”

Edwards said she began writing an office referral on the boy that included a request to speak with his parents when she noticed him approaching her desk.

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“I felt a pain in my shoulder and I assumed that he hit me,” Edwards said. “He looked around at the classroom and then ran out . . . . One of my students came up and said, ‘You have a knife in your back.’ ”

Edwards said she has made no plans about returning to work. She said the attack shows how teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District need protection such as emergency telephones in classrooms.

“If I had a phone, I could have called security to get the student out of the classroom without having to take the five or six minutes to write the referral and let him hurt me,” she said.

A little more than half of the district’s 600 or so schools, including Olive Vista, have some type of intercom system that link classrooms to the main office, district officials said. But no more than 25 schools have emergency telephones that can be programmed to signal an emergency immediately to school officials, said Rod Macdonell, the district’s electrical supervisor.

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Edwards, who had an emergency telephone in her classroom last year while teaching at Stevenson Junior High School in East Los Angeles, said the Olive Vista intercom system is too cumbersome to use in emergencies. Teachers there must push a button and wait for an office secretary to notice a flashing light and then go to another room to answer the call using a special telephone, school officials said.

District spokeswoman Diana Munatones said the district had considered a plan to put telephones in every classroom but dropped the idea because of the high cost. “If we had the funds, we would do it,” she said.


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