Lake Worth High School upended by a student’s attack on an administrator

090810 (Gary Coronado/Palm Beach Post)-- Lake Worth -- Lake Worth High School in Lake Worth Wednesday. SCR 2873

Lake Worth High School (Gary Coronado/Palm Beach Post)

Lake Worth High School’s principal has been removed from the campus and an assistant principal has been transferred in fallout from the school’s handling of a student who attacked the assistant principal last month, The Palm Beach Post has learned.

School district officials this week ordered longtime Principal George Lockhart to stay off campus amid a probe stemming from the Nov. 22 attack, the handling of which has divided school staffers since it happened.

The incident came to the attention of top school district leaders this month via a scathing email from the wife of the attacked assistant principal, who claimed that the offending student was allowed to return to school days later without undergoing a mandatory student-transfer proceeding.

The female student punched, scratched, bit and kicked Assistant Principal Terence Hart on Nov. 22, according to Hart’s wife, Ayana Hart. A copy of her email to school district leaders was obtained by The Post.

011612 (Taylor Jones/The Palm Beach Post). LAKE WORTH. ndre Lowe(cq), left, and Lake Worth High School principal George Lewis Lockhart(cq) lead Lake Worth's 18th annual Martin Luther King candlelight march to Cultural Park Monday night. The wind kept most candles without flames. Dinner followed at First Baptist, provided by religious and civic organizations.

Lake Worth High School principal George Lockhart (center) leads a candlelight march in 2012. (Taylor Jones/The Palm Beach Post).

The attack, she said, should have prompted the student to be considered for a transfer to another school under the school district’s student code of conduct.

Instead, she claimed that Lockhart allowed the student to return to campus days later, a decision that she argued put students and school workers “at risk of a violent attack.”

It was not clear whether Lockhart’s removal was directly related to his handling of the incident. An official familiar with the case told The Post that human-resource investigators were reviewing separate allegations that emerged in a probe of the matter.

In further fallout, Terence Hart, the assistant principal injured by the student, was reassigned this week to a position at Turning Points Academy, an alternative school for high-risk students.

Together, the moves leave the school largely leaderless as district officials work through events that have divided the campus for nearly a month.

After the Nov. 22 incident, the Hart family removed their two daughters from the school, concluding they were not safe there, Ayana Hart said.

“This student physically and aggressively attacked my husband,” she wrote, “and I know that this is not the first time this student has attacked someone at the school.”

“But it seems as though the principal doesn’t care about how this student is putting other students, as well as the administrators and staff, at risk of a violent attack,” she continued.

Hart and his wife declined to comment, while Lockhart did not respond to messages seeking comment. Two people familiar with the case told The Post that Lockhart and Hart had been involved in an ongoing feud that predated the attack.

A school district spokeswoman declined to comment on the case, other than to confirm that Lockhart had been temporarily removed from the school pending an investigation.

The incident comes amid widespread pressure on principals to cut the rates of suspensions and expulsions on their campuses, a national movement sparked by concerns that school discipline disproportionately affects male and minority students.

But some teachers have expressed worry that refraining from disciplining students who commit violence creates an unsafe environment for teachers and administrators.

“If the student is allowed back on campus, you’ve sent a message to the other students that you can attack with impunity,” said a person familiar with the details of the campus incident.

Ayana Hart, in her email, suggested that allowing the student to return was part of a larger cultural problem at the school that encouraged letting students escape punishment for physical altercations.

“How are the students supposed to feel safe and protected when this type of behavior is cultivated at the school?” she wrote. “It’s as though the students know that the principal is not going to discipline them or provide any consequences for their actions!”

The investigation into the incident continues, a district spokeswoman said.

Reader Comments 0

0 comments