After teacher stops knife-wielding student, Houlton High School reflects on policy changes

Posted May 29, 2013, at 2:44 p.m.
Last modified May 29, 2013, at 6:38 p.m.

HOULTON, Maine — Teachers at Houlton High School will “continue to reflect” on possible changes to procedures or policies after a classroom altercation on Tuesday during which a 15-year-old female student allegedly wielded a knife against a classmate.

One teacher was bitten when he intervened, but neither student was injured.

Mike Hammer, superintendent of RSU 29 in Houlton, said Wednesday morning that a staff meeting was held immediately after the incident, which involved the girl and another 15-year-old male student in social studies teacher Timothy Tweedie’s classroom just before 1 p.m. May 28.

Hammer said that there was no history of the two students being mean to each other or bullying, and both Hammer and Houlton Police Chief Butch Asselin said that there really were no heated words exchanged.

“Mr. Tweedie had asked them about their Memorial Day weekend,” Hammer said Wednesday.

The female student then took a tactical-type knife with a 6-inch blade out of her book bag, which she had by her desk, according to Asselin. She allegedly charged toward the boy. Tweedie saw what was happening and stepped between them. He wrestled with the girl for control of the knife as she was trying to get free.

Robert Kinens, who was teaching in a nearby classroom, heard the commotion and assisted Tweedie. They restrained the girl and tried to reason with her but were unable to get her to release the knife, according to the chief.

At that point, Principal Marty Bouchard came in the classroom and reportedly talked the student into dropping the knife.

Tweedie suffered bite marks, but was otherwise unharmed. The students were not injured.

The girl’s father took her to Houlton Regional Hospital for a psychological evaluation, the chief said.

The school was not placed on lockdown but parents were notified and students were secured in their classrooms.

Hammer also said Wednesday that the girl had no history of violence at the school. He said that he was pleased with the way that the teachers and principal handled the situation.

“Someone else may have handled it differently,” he said. “Another teacher might have pushed a desk in between the students. It is all in what they are comfortable with. We don’t train our teachers in hand-to-hand combat. I think adrenaline kicked in and Mr. Tweedie reacted and made a great decision and no one was injured.”

The superintendent also wanted to dispel rumors that surveillance cameras mounted in and around the school were not working that day.

“The cameras are working and could be helpful for prosecution if necessary,” he said.

Asselin said the girl could face charges of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and assault, which he indicated would be forthcoming.

Charges had not been filed by Wednesday afternoon.

Hammer said that while some parents had approached the district about the need for metal detectors after the incident, it was a small number.

“We are going to continue to push our students to advocate for themselves,” he said. “To tell us if they see or hear information that is suspicious going on with their peers and taking place around them. That makes a tremendous difference.”

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