When a classmate stroked an X-Acto knife back and forth across their son’s neck and asked him whether he wanted to die, Robert and Anna Wagoner immediately went to school authorities, demanding they take action to discipline the attacker.
The Wagoners said school authorities sent the student away from Mt. Hebron High School the next day, Oct. 11, and offered support to their son. But just before the holiday break, the family was told the alleged attacker would be back in school this week.
Now the Wagoners are questioning whether their son will be safe, and whether the Ellicott City school should be allowing the classmate to return. They have decided to keep their son home from school, at least temporarily, and are asking school officials to transfer the other student to another school. They point to the fact that the other student has become increasingly aggressive toward their son since middle school.
“This is a troubled teen who needs help, and Mt. Hebron doesn’t have the resources to help this kid,” Anna Wagoner said.
So far, the Wagoners say, school officials have told them that staff are aware of the issue and will be providing supervision during class changes, but officials have not said they will have the student transferred.
Efforts to reach the family of the student accused of the attack were unsuccessful.
The attack was unprovoked, according to the Wagoners, and happened Oct. 10 during the last class of the day while the teacher wasn’t looking.
It followed what the Wagoners described as a history of attacks on their son. The classmate had hit him in the stomach in the hallways and “karate chopped” him in the neck in eighth grade. The attacks continued in ninth grade when the student was in two of their son’s classes.
One day the student came up behind their son who was working at a computer and put a chokehold around his neck. Their son told them he saw stars and thought he would pass out. But the student let go, went across the room and picked up an X-Acto knife that was available for students in the classroom who were working on projects. He came back and with his right arm grabbed the Wagoner’s son by the neck and brought the knife to his throat.
The attack was witnessed by two other students, according to the parents.
The school system did not confirm the details of the assault, citing privacy restrictions.
“The school and [Howard County public schools’] central office are aware of the circumstances and follow all board policies when responding to any incident involving students," said Brian Bassett, a spokesman for the school system in a statement. "To protect the privacy of our students we do not share any actions that school administrators may or may not take when responding to incidents.”
But Howard County Police Department spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said that a school resource officer “responded to a report that on Oct. 10, a 14-year-old male student had threatened a 15-year-old male student with an X-Acto knife at Mt. Hebron High School. The student was arrested and charged as a juvenile.”
According to a letter to the Wagoners from the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, the student who is alleged to have attacked their son is being charged as a juvenile with first- and second-degree assault and battery.
Bassett, the school spokesman, said that whenever there is an incident between students or a student and a staff member, the school puts in place plans for the student to transition back into the school.
“Our staff is trained in conflict resolution and our staff is trained in students receiving supports so they can learn in a safe environment," he said, noting that he was speaking in general and not to this specific incident.
According to Howard County school district policy, the school district suspends students for extended periods of time for only the most severe offenses. In this case, the student was out of Mt. Hebron for about 45 days, according to the Wagoners, the maximum length of time allowed under the provisions of the discipline code.
But the Wagoners said they aren’t certain their son is safe in school.
In November, a Howard County Circuit Court Judge granted the parents a peace order, which requires the classmate to stay away from their son and their house.