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Mom wants answers, help after son is injured at Churchill School

Note: The photo in this story shows the wound the child suffered in this incident and might be disturbing to some readers. We replaced the original photo with one that is less graphic and apologize to anyone who found the first photo troubling.

The mother of a fourth grader at Churchill School is asking the District 153 administration to take action after her son was stabbed with a pencil and required a stay in a hospital.

Jessica Lopez, the mother of the boy, said she is concerned not only for her son who was injured and another son in third grade at Churchill School, but for all the children and teachers.

“What is going to be done to prevent this from anyone else getting hurt?” Lopez asked. She posed that question to Superintendent Scott McAlister but said she didn’t get a direct answer. 

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The Chronicle reached out to the district for comment and was told: “Student privacy laws prohibit school districts from commenting on incidents and/or discipline involving individual students.”

“I understand there are laws, but there has to be something done,” Lopez stressed. “I posted on social media. I told Scott McAlister I want to work with the school. Let’s find a solution. Let’s figure this out. This is very extreme. This is something that could have killed my son; that could have been a lot worse.”

Lopez hopes to get answers when she addresses the school board at its 7 p.m. meeting Monday, Feb. 6, at James Hart School.

The incident happened Thursday, Jan. 26. The class had taken a break from the district’s STAR testing about 1:30 p.m. The teacher had the students up and stretching, according to Lopez. When the teacher told the class to return to their desks, “as he went to go sit down, the student put his hand across and (my son) didn’t see him holding the pencil and the kid pushed it up.” She claimed the boy laughed about it.

A fourth grader at Churchill School was stabbed
with this pencil into his buttock. About 4.5
inches of the pencil was forced into him
causing serious harm. This photo was taken in
the emergency room. (Provided photo)

About 4.5 inches of the pencil was forced through Lopez’s son’s pants and underwear into his left buttock cheek and inside his abdominal cavity. Doctors told the mother that another 2 inches and her son could have suffered damage to his intestines and rectum.

The school called Lopez that Thursday afternoon notifying her her son had been stabbed with a pencil and an ambulance had been called. The 10-year-old was taken to South Suburban Hospital and then transferred to Hope Children’s Hospital on the campus of Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. 

Doctors in the emergency room there removed the pencil. 

“Surgeons did tests to make sure there was no air in his body,” Lopez said. He complained of stomach pains. “He was not allowed to eat and was on pain medication through the IV and a high dose of antibiotics, so they were trying to dose it. They were referring to it like a human bite because of the bacteria that can be on the pencil.”  

Doctors told her the pencil extending into his body cavity came close to his intestines. She said the opening caused by the stabbing needs to heal from the inside out. It needed to be cleaned every two hours. Her son remains on antibiotics.

Meanwhile, the school was on a Code Yellow alert immediately after the incident. This alert directs students to stay in their classrooms so that medical personnel (the paramedics) could move unhindered to the school office, according to district PR Director Shelley Peck.

Also, in the fourth grade classroom a social worker talked with students that afternoon about what had happened, Lopez said. The school sent a message about it, but only to parents in her son’s classroom, she said. All Churchill parents received a Jan. 31 notice from the principal about “an incident between two students last week. We are handling the matter according to the school district discipline policy” adding that “student safety is always our highest priority.” 

Lopez said her son told doctors and police he wasn’t talking to the boy and had no interaction with him before he was stabbed. District 153 said it could not respond due to restrictions of discussions on discipline.

Lopez asked to have a police report filed. An officer came to her home and spoke with her son. She said police have classified the stabbing as a battery. Illinois law allows a battery charge if a person “knowingly without legal justification by any means causes bodily harm to an individual or makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with an individual.”

Homewood police do not intend to take any action. The incident is centered around a 10-year-old child and is under the school’s jurisdiction.

The school district has a Discipline Handbook that lists rules and appropriate punishments for infractions. A 10-day suspension is imposed by a building administrator (principal) or the superintendent. The district would not comment on any discipline matters.

Lopez hopes her son can return to school, with restrictions, in the next week. She said a therapist at the hospital suggested he try and return, even for a limited time each day. Lopez said the therapist told her: “When kids are in such a traumatic state, it’s best to get back into things so they don’t build up more fear.”

She said she has been told the boy will be moved into another fourth grade class. She feels that is not the solution and could mean harm to others. District 153 did not verify that the student will be reassigned. 

“This was not two kids fighting. This was not middle school for a child to have this much aggression. Something has to be done,” the mother said. She hopes someone in the district can work to understand and “get down to the point of why’s this kid so mad? Why is this kid acting this way? Why should we expose this kid, while you’re trying to figure this out, to the rest of the students?”

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