Philadelphia School District Sued Over Attack

A former Audenried High student, who received more than 50 stitches to her face and chest after being attacked with a razor blade during a 2003 school melee, may collect more than $250,000 in damages from the Philadelphia School District.

Jamillah Robinson, who was 16 at the time of the attack, claimed in a federal civil rights suit that the South Philadelphia school was negligent because the principal did nothing to protect her, even though she warned staff repeatedly that she was being threatened.

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission is scheduled to vote on the proposed settlement agreement on Wednesday.

The attack on Robinson inside the school led Chief Executive Officer Paul Vallas - who had been on the job only seven months at the time - to remove principal Millage Holloway from his post, along with several other staff members.

Audenried has since been closed and a replacement school is being built.

The settlement comes less than three months after a similar agreement over another attack inside a Philadelphia high school in November 2001. In that case, the district paid $175,000 to settle a lawsuit involving former George Washington High student Matthew Gremo.

Gremo, who was 17 at the time of the attack, sustained brain injuries after he was ambushed outside the lunchroom and beaten. Four teens were convicted in that attack and a fifth was found guilty of conspiracy.

Vallas pointed out that the George Washington High attack occurred before his tenure. He said both settlements were justified.

"I certainly don't want to encourage lawsuits, but in both cases... I thought the settlements were fair," Vallas said Friday.

If the settlement is approved, Robinson would receive $129,000 in January and another $129,000 the following year.

In her lawsuit complaint, Robinson said she began telling Audenried staff about harassment from other students in November 2002. One teacher dismissed her concerns, calling it "girl stuff," the complaint said. School guards, the complaint said, told her it was nothing and she was being paranoid.

Even after several of the students were found on Audenried property with mace, box cutters and other weapons in January, the only action taken was a six-day suspension, the suit said. Robinson and her mother repeatedly called the school, asking that further action be taken against the students, the suit said.

The day of the slashing, Robinson told security guards that she was warned the night before that she would be attacked, but was told to go to class, the complaint said. She took the matter to Holloway anyway, and Holloway told her that her concerns were "mindless," the complaint alleged.

She was attacked a short time later while on her way to class.

Family Court Judge Kevin Dougherty found five teenage girls guilty in March 2003 in connection with two fights and the razor slashing. At the time, he excoriated Audenried for its lack of control and discipline: "Audenried should hang its window down with absolute shame."

Robinson's lawyer Paul Messing declined comment last week.

Vallas said such attacks in school are rare. "We've been fortunate that we haven't had a repeat of that kind," he said.

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