Upper Darby teacher attacked with hammer

February 20, 2013 8:31:02 PM PST
Upper Darby Police are investigating several incidents that have rattled the school community, including a brutal attack on a teacher Tuesday afternoon.

"Here's a teacher doing her after schoolwork, and she is lucky she didn't get seriously injured or killed," said Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood.

It happened just after dismissal time yesterday at Upper Darby High School.

Police say 19 year old Darlington James walked in a back door during dismissal yesterday.

They say he went to a second floor classroom, where he attacked a teacher with a hammer.

Police say he started swinging at her and they fell to the floor as they struggled. James then allegedly fled with her laptop computer.

Other teachers joined the chase and called police.

They found James hiding in a backyard nearby.

Police say he had the computer in his backpack and later confessed.

Parents of Upper Darby High School students were alarmed to hear how easy it was for James to get in the school.

"When I heard something like that, I always worry about is it a safe place to bring my child," parent Gohar Kaladjian said.

Police say he is also being charged with a similar incident at Beverly Hills Middle School that happened on January 14th.

James, who is not a student at the high school, is being charged with multiple felonies. Police suspect that he may have been involved in a rash of computer thefts in the school district.

Officials say the teacher suffered some minor scrapes and bruises in the incident.

"The brazenness of these guys just walking into a school and doing what they do is just mind-boggling," said Chitwood.

In another incident, police have also arrested a 13-year-old 8th grader at a Drexel Hill Middle School. They say the boy was overheard saying that he was going to shoot up the school on Wednesday.

Police went to his home Tuesday night and found a knife in his backpack but no guns. He is being charged with making terroristic threats.

"When you hear in this day and age that somebody is going to shoot up the school, it is top priority, zero tolerance," Chitwood said.

The 8th grader is being held at a juvenile detention center pending further investigation.

Parents are upset they weren't informed of any of this.

Action News tried to ask why that was the case, but the district has no comment.

It did, however, release a statement praising its staff for contacting the police.

The statement also mentioned the police released the information to the media without their knowledge.

Here is the statement in full:

In response to recent events that occurred at Beverly Hills Middle School, Drexel Hill Middle School, and Upper Darby High School and were reported on the news today, the Upper Darby School District Administration and Security alerted the Upper Darby Police Department to all three incidents. This was a joint effort to keep the children and staff of the Upper Darby School District safe.

Yesterday, at approximately 3:30 PM, Drexel Hill Middle School administration received information from a parent about a potential student terroristic threat that would allegedly occur on Wednesday, February 20th. Upper Darby Administration and Security immediately contacted Upper Darby Police to handle the investigation. At approximately the same time at Upper Darby High School, an adult male attacked a teacher and stole a laptop. Upper Darby Administration and District Security immediately contacted 911 and pursued the 19-year-old perpetrator until police arrived and placed him in custody. According to the police, this individual is also linked to an incident involving a physical altercation with a teacher and a stolen laptop at Beverly Hills Middle School in January.

We are proud that our parents, school district administrators, school district security, and Upper Darby police department all worked together in the best interest of the security of our schools and students.

Normally, according to our Memo of Understanding with the Upper Darby Police Department, the school district and the police department would hold a joint press conference on such events. However, the police decided to hold their own press conference today without our knowledge.

The safety and security of our students always has been, and continues to be, the top priority of the Upper Darby School District.