Franklin Regional parent had bullying concerns before knife rampage
A Franklin Regional parent said Saturday that police have been alerted to an online taunt sent the night before to a 16-year-old student who went on a rampage at Franklin Regional Senior High School on Wednesday morning.
A screen shot of the posting by another student that called Alex Hribal, 16, a “rat face” was turned over to police on the same day he slashed and stabbed 20 students and a guard in the school.
Timothy Graham said he is concerned about the issue because school officials ignored his pleas to intervene in bullying that targeted his daughter and escalated into her being attacked in the cafeteria.
Alicia Graham, a freshman, was assaulted on Jan. 30 by a girl who jumped on Alicia, hit her with a cafeteria tray and beat her until a teacher pulled her away, Graham said.
His daughter suffered a concussion and missed three days of school. School officials declined to tell Graham what punishment was received by her attacker.
Graham said he took a list of bullying text messages and social media posts “four to six” students sent to his daughter — some that encouraged her to kill herself — to the school “sometime around Halloween.”
“I felt like they kind of waved a gold wand over it. They said it's an affluent (community),” Graham said. “My daughter just said that's how it is at Franklin. Everybody bullies everybody.”
Graham said he gave the school a list of his daughter's alleged tormentors.
It included the name of the male student who posted the message ridiculing Hribal, Graham said.
Hribal allegedly went into school with two stainless steel knives and attacked other students in a hallway. He has been charged as an adult for attempted murder and aggravated assault.
Hribal's attorney, Patrick Thomassey, said he has received about 20 anonymous phone calls and messages from concerned students who want him to know “that things have happened” involving Hribal.
Thomassey said he was unaware of the taunt described by Graham, who said a student who took a screen shot of the posting brought it to Murrysville police shortly after the attacks.
“What upset me the most was that officials are saying we're not aware of a bullying problem in school. They're saying we have a great anti-bullying procedure in school ... (but) it's vague at best,” Graham said.
Sgt. Tom Kusinsky said he had no knowledge of that report and Chief Tom Seefeld and the investigating detective were not available to comment.
District Attorney John Peck declined to comment. “We're looking at anything that comes forward to us,” he said.
School board member George Harding declined to comment. He referred any questions on alleged bullying to the administration.
Assistant Superintendent Mary Catherine Reljac declined to answer questions about whether district officials were aware of bullying incidents involving Hribal. She declined to discuss how many instances of alleged bullying had been reported to district officials in recent years.
“There is an active investigation going on regarding this incident and those questions need to be directed to law enforcement,” Reljac said.
School board member Roberta Cook said she had no knowledge of any bullying that might have involved Hribal, other than media reports. She would only say that the district does have a bullying prevention policy. Other school board members did not return messages seeking comment.
The policy, adopted in 2004, said all district students have “the right to a safe and civil educational environment.”
The zero-tolerance policy would cover intentional ridicule via an “electronic act,” and noted that “consequences for students who bully others may include not only counseling or a parent conference, but also discipline such as detention, suspension and/or expulsion.”
In the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Safe Schools report for 2012-2013, Westmoreland County schools reported a total of 26 incidents of bullying. Franklin Regional reported zero, according to the report.
Brett Myers, a senior at Franklin Regional, said most students don't believe bullying incited Hribal.
He acknowledged that some bullying occurs, but “you just don't see kids getting pushed into lockers or books being” swiped out of their hands.
Myers said the school's anti-bullying program includes biweekly meetings with students and teachers that allow students to anonymously discuss issues.
Four students remained hospitalized in critical condition on Saturday.
Kristin Brennan of Murrysville, said she talked to her son Luke, 18, a senior at Franklin Regional, after the attacks.
She said that her son said that “people are pretty sensitive” to the issue of bullying, and have reported problems to district officials.
“I do feel like if people know about it, they would take action,” Brennan said.
Staff writers Renatta Signorini, Bill Vidonic, Greg Reinbold and Nicole Chynoweth contributed to this report. Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or email@example.com.
Add Kari Andren to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Westmoreland County furloughs weights and measurements director
- Jeannette company’s miniature steam engines coveted for decades
- Police gather in Ligonier for Perryopolis officer’s funeral
- United Way surplus funds benefit 9 nonprofits in Westmoreland County
- Arbitration decides Westmoreland court workers’ pact
- Hempfield leaders kill zoning request for townhomes
- Ligonier Township residents concerned about hydraulic fracturing amid draft zoning ordinance
- Unity name excised from Latrobe parks, recreation
- Greensburg police Officer Scalzo commended for stopping suicide
- Bus used at World Trade Center on 9/11 revamped in East Huntingdon
- Jacobs Creek woman guilty in murder attempt