A 15-year-old Pacoima youth admitted Wednesday that he stabbed a teacher in the back during an Olive Vista Junior High School class. He faces up to eight years in a juvenile prison.
The thin, soft-spoken ninth-grader was charged with assault with a deadly weapon on a school employee in the March 6 attack on English teacher Cynthia Edwards, 37, of Palmdale. Edwards had called the boy to the front of a classroom at the Sylmar school after he had disturbed other students discussing Homer's "The Odyssey" by using profanity in an argument with another student.
The three-inch knife was embedded to the hilt in the back of Edwards' shoulder. She was hospitalized for five days and is recovering at home on medical leave, officials said.
"I admit it," the boy said after the assault charge was read at a short Sylmar Juvenile Court hearing attended by his mother, father and two older sisters.
A second charge of possession of a knife on a school campus was dropped by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. The boy will be sentenced May 25 by Judge Morton Rochman after a probation report is prepared. He remained in custody Wednesday at Sylmar Juvenile Hall.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Craig R. Richman said the boy can be sentenced to up to eight years in the custody of juvenile authorities, including placement in a home probation program, a foster home, a youth camp or in a California Youth Authority facility, a prison for young people.
Facts Not in Doubt
The boy's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Mark R. Frazin, said the youth had little choice but to admit his guilt. "The facts were never really in doubt," Frazin said. "Certainly, Mrs. Edwards was stabbed" and the boy "stabbed her."
Although Frazin said there was no excusing the attack, he said he believed that the probation report will show that the boy is a "good kid" who has a lot of support from his family and the community.
During the hearing, Rochman noted that since his arrest, the boy has compiled a record of misbehaving while at Juvenile Hall. "There has been a continued decline in his behavior," the judge said.
Juvenile authorities said they were bound by privacy laws and could not elaborate on the boy's behavior, but Frazin blamed the problems in part on the boy having been ridiculed by teachers at the Juvenile Hall's school because of the offense he is charged with.
He said the incidents have included teachers telling the boy not to come near or walk behind them. A supervisor at Juvenile Hall declined to comment on the allegations.
Edwards could not be reached for comment.
At Olive Vista Junior High, there was little noticeable reaction to the boy's admission of guilt.
However, Principal Charles C. Welsh said the shock of the attack remains, particularly because teachers and officials had made several efforts to counsel the boy, a C-average student who had been transferred there because of disciplinary problems at another school.
"It's still a shock to me, very much so," he said. "We had made accommodations for him. We had listened to him. Counseling-wise, we had gone beyond what we normally do for students. We were actively working with the kid and then everything . . . you know, didn't work out too well."
The attack resulted in several students and teachers being counseled by district specialists and an increase in security at the 1,600-student school at 14600 Tyler St. But Welsh said things are back to routine. He noted that this week teachers and students are preparing for a Cinco de Mayo celebration Friday.
"Kids are kids and they are resilient," Welsh said. "Things are back to normal."