A Teacher’s Story

Veteran Philadelphia teacher Frank Burd tells his own story about the violence that plagues Philly’s schools, the incredible support he received from the community, and his ongoing fight to recover

To recount what happened in the hall that morning, I can only repeat what I’ve been told by numerous ­eyewitnesses. I remember nothing of the assault. That in itself is quite a blessing.

Apparently, I was in the hall at Germantown High School, where I’d been a teacher since 2001. I was walking with an iPod in my hand. I have no idea where I might have been going. I do know that the phone in my room wasn’t working. Perhaps I was looking for someone.

Anyway, Donte Boykin, the student in my class whose iPod set everything in motion, was following me. I saw this on the surveillance tape, weeks later, in the hospital. I then disappear into a crowd, pushed from the back by Donte.

I seem to have become a volleyball between Donte and James Footman, a student with a troubled past who shouldn’t have been in the hallway, who probably shouldn’t even have been at Germantown, because of his violent history.

I can’t imagine how I was shoved back and forth between them, but that’s what the reports say. The second time I landed in Footman’s arms, he hit me. The reports say I was punched a few times. They say that as I stumbled away, he pursued me and punched me again, driving me to the ground. They say that on the way down, I crashed into the lockers. Was it there that I received the gash to my head?

Someone took a picture with a cell phone of me lying passed out on the floor, my head in a pool of my own blood. They tell me that I had at least one and maybe more seizures. They tell me that I soiled myself. My friend Beckey still has the clothes I wore somewhere, in a plastic bag.