Planet Princeton

Student with Autism Had to Get Stitches after Fight at Princeton High

An eleventh-grade boy who is autistic was beaten up by one or more seniors at Princeton High School during finals week and had to get  stitches because of a cut on his head.

Part of the incident was recorded on a cell phone by at least one student, and a student posted a clip on Snapchat, students told Planet Princeton. Police were dispatched to the high school in response to the June 16 incident.

There are conflicting reports regarding whether the fight was mutual. Police said Friday afternoon that two students engaged in a verbal argument in the cafeteria.  The argument allegedly escalated and the boys walked to a nearby hallway, where they got into a fight. The autistic student was cut, and the other student injured his hand.  According to police, no other students were involved in or took part in the fight, although there were several students present during the fight. Students told Planet Princeton more than one student was involved in the fight, but that the Snapchat video clip showed one student punching the autistic student. Students said the other students did nothing to stop the fight.

The student who was beaten up has Asperger’s Syndrome. Children with autism spectrum disorders are three times as likely as their non-affected siblings to experience bullying, according to a 2012 national survey conducted by the Interactive Autism Network and Johns Hopkins University.  Sixty-one percent of kids with Asperger’s experienced bullying, while 28 percent of children with autism and 37 percent of children with other autism spectrum disorders had been bullied, according to parents who took part in the survey.

More than half of the autistic children experienced intentional triggering of meltdowns or had been provoked into fighting back, according to parents. One mother said kids often tried to upset her daughter on purpose because they found it funny when she cried and got upset.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • PrincetonParent

    It is also wasteful for the school district to maintain four elementary schools given current enrollments. There are many reasons why one would want to spend money in ways that you might find wasteful. Preserving neighborhood schools is one good reason. Allowing children to get a good education who were unable to find it in the traditional public school system is another.

    American society is all about favoring choice, even when there it might seem wasteful. It’s the basis of the capitalistic system we have, when competition spurs higher quality. Rather than writing about waste in capital letters, might you consider how to solve and eliminate the problems that the kids face in schools that are causing them to leave? If you we could solve that problem, the kids wouldn’t be leaving.

  • Joe

    I am not attacking the PCS teachers, parents or performance of same. I am just pointing out that PCS or any charter school drains funds and resources from the district schools, even a rich district like Princeton. PPS has an elected school board and a superintendent ($167,500 – 2013). PCS has a head of school which I guess is the equivalent of the superintendent? As of 2013, his salary was $113,701 but he also teaches. The PCS business administrator earns $113,000 as of 2013. The PPS superintendent administers a K-12 school system with over 3000 kids. The PCS head of school administers a K-8 school system of just under 350 kids. The charter school duplicates many of the administrative positions of the district, this is wasteful. PPS pays big bucks for its superintendent who has absolutely no say over the day to day operations of PCS. THIS IS WASTEFUL!!!

  • Liz Winslow

    Diane Ravitch is extremely well-known for her views on charter schools. They also have very little to do with PCS, which is not a for profit, not starving a poor district out of desperately-needed marginal dollars, etc. Just to start with her.

    “Bash, demean, and slime” seems on the surface pretty clear to me, but I’m sorry if I misunderstood you. In any event, PCS is and always has been unto itself in terms of funding, and again, if a school goes door to door to encourage enrollment, and there’s a huge waitlist (you can see the numbers on its website), I think it’s inaccurate to criticize them for exclusion. I encourage you to research the specifics of this school and this town vs. relying on very biased sources about charter schools as a whole, which are a different conversation.

  • PrincetonParent

    It’s disconcerting that there are so many people who want to bash, demean, and slime both the regular district schools and the charter schools. This is about education and our children. We should be civil.

    This news story is about a horrible incident of hate. Where does such hate come from? Partially, from adults who say nasty things to each other.

    The financial aspects of charter school funding are troubling but it’s exactly for that reason that charter schools were created. The goal was to ensure that schools were responsive to all students. Otherwise, some students would leave and take their funding with them. PCS was founded because parents were unable to persuade the school district (back in the 1990s) to offer a challenging curriculum for their children. it seems to be doing an excellent job with satisfied children and parents.

  • PrincetonParent

    Charter schools are accountable to the parents of the kids attending the schools. If the school isn’t successful, fewer students will attend it. It’s hard to criticize PCS for accountability when there is long waiting list of Princeton parents who would like to enroll their children.

    The traditional public schools do a very good job and serve many children well, but there’s a lot of children they aren’t serving well (to judge from the waiting list).

  • PrincetonResident

    Actually, I think your claim is tough to believe. So there. You’re a parent, your child is beaten and you don’t report it to the administration or police? How dare you put other children in danger by turning your back on them, and on your own child. Sad for you — either you didn’t deal properly with a terrible incident, or you’re not telling the truth now. Either way, not responsible.

  • Joe

    Try Diane Ravitch, Jersey Jazzman (Mark Weber), Bruce Baker and Bob Braun. I work very hard to get my facts straight. I did not criticize you personally and I did not try to suppress your heartfelt expressions. Please don’t accuse me of things I didn’t do. With all due respect, I think what happened to your son was an anomaly, a rarity and not typical of PPS.

  • Joe

    Charter schools are like separate school districts unto themselves. They are unaccountable to the duly elected school boards and the superintendent of the district schools. Charter schools have their own unelected (by the residents) boards and their own heads of school or CEOs. The Princeton school system must supply the bussing for the charter school. While PCS might be a great school, overall and on average, charter schools are no better than the district schools and many are much worse than the actual public schools. I am against this undemocratic privatization of our public school system.

  • Giles Corey

    I was there, they didn’t know he was autistic, and the fight was mutual

  • Elizabeth Winslow

    So if your friend lived across the street from Einstein – who died in 1955 – what is the basis for all of this intimate knowledge you claim of the current state of Princeton’s elementary schools?

  • Liz Winslow

    If by “bash, demean and slime” you mean state the facts about what happened to my autistic child – how dare you tell me I shouldn’t open my mouth because it’s an inconvenient truth. Once again, provide one single (privacy protected) example of the discrimination and lack of services you say takes place in PCS. Really, “Joe,” who are you, and what is your agenda? I post under my real name, and while clearly we disagree, so does Martha Friend. It’s tough to respect someone who slings (incorrect) mud while hiding behind a pseudonym.

    Maybe if PPS took heart and looked at why so many kids do enter the lottery each year – including those with special needs – there wouldn’t be demand for PCS anymore. As it is, demand is robust.

  • Liz Winslow

    They are not excluding anyone. They have even gone door to door in lower income areas of town to get the word out. If people don’t enter the lottery – perhaps because of the untruths out there such as they exclude low income children and don’t provide for special needs kids – they can’t accept kids whose parents haven’t entered them.

  • Blake Cash

    They were successful…did you have a point?

  • Joe

    You are partially right about elitism. I went to school with kids whose parents were millionaires and lived in incredible mansions. There I was, this kid from the wrong side of the PU campus. The other class of kids were the children of the professors from PU, The Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton Seminary or Rutgers. Some of the kids were the children of world class scientists and even Nobel Prize winners (Oppenheimer, Wigner, John Wheeler). One friend lived across the street from Einstein. Actually, these kids were not as arrogant or snobby as they could have been. In spite of all that, it was a great experience, quite unique. I’m sorry that you had such a nasty negative experience when you went to PHS.

  • Wendy

    These kids picked on and baited an autistic boy, lured him away and punched him. They should never have been allowed to walk in graduation. With barely any effort at all I have been able to get many details about what happened from kids at PHS. I only hope this is being investigated by the police. But more importantly, I hope the parents of these boys have acted like parents , brought their sons to the boys house, and made them apologize to the boy they punched and his parents. DO THE RIGHT THING! These boys will become men, help them become respectable men.

  • Jake

    Blake Cash? Sounds like your parents attempted to push you into the pornstar industry with that one

  • Joe

    More from Dr. Bruce Baker:

    That is, PCS has only the mildest, lowest cost children with disabilities.

    Put bluntly, these figures show that the parent population of Princeton Charter is obligating the parents of much less advantaged children, including parents of children with special education needs, subsidize their preference to have a school more like the private day schools along Great Road.
    Go to his school finance 101 web site and search for the segregating suburbia article.

  • Joe

    From a Bruce Baker (Rutgers educational scholar) 2013 article:

    Princeton is also known for having an exceptionally strong local public district. [snip] Notably, in Princeton the lowest poverty “public” school is Princeton Charter School. Princeton Public Schools each have much higher rates of children qualified for free or reduced priced lunch. [snip] Rather amazingly, Princeton Charter School appears – at least by exclusion of low income children – to be positioning itself as a publicly subsidized alternative to the elite private schools and not as a more broadly accessible charter alternative.
    Go to his school finance 101 wordpress web site and search for the article.

  • Joe

    It’s OK to bash, demean and slime the regular district schools? PCS is a great school but at what expense to the regular district schools. PCS does not have the same PERCENTAGES of severely disabled, poor or non English speakers as the district schools.

  • Joe

    Wealthy? Surely you jest, my parents were working class people, lower middle class. As far from wealth and privilege as you can get.

  • Liz Winslow

    I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but iirc, PCS ends up spending around $14k per child in public dollars vs. around $24k per child at sending elementaries. I think more $10k per kid more than accounts for overhead. It can only accept kids who enter the lottery, and it is bound by law to accept any child who wins that enters – such as my son, who I assure you, is costing PCS way more than he brings in. I’d like you to cite (if you can do so and respect privacy) one actual example of a severely disabled child applying, winning a spot, and not having needs met – not a hypothetical, an actual case of an actual person.

    Not everything is about dollars.

  • Liz Winslow

    Huh? PCS isn’t a for-profit charter school. My son has multiple disabilities and is thriving there. And logic would dictate that if the teachers are paid less at charter, they’re probably pretty passionate about what they do. Where are you getting this attack info from?

  • PrincetonParent

    It’s hard to understand how an article on a sad incident at PHS engenders attacks on the charter school. I have a child with special needs that were overlooked by the regular public schools. The charter school noticed and has teachers who have helped.

    I say this only in response to the misinformation put out there that the charter school doesn’t help all children. It does, and in at least one case, it did it better than the traditional public school.

  • D

    If Princeton charter school accepted more special needs kids with extreme cases, it would be a disaster. There are no special classes or teachers for students that need extra help and attention. In fact, going to a public school with special needs teachers and classes is more beneficial than placing a child out of his or her learning capacity. It is difficult to teach a class at a consistent rate when there is more than a handful of students that can barely take notes or write in general. It is a lottery system, there are less special needs children in the population, so there are less in the lottery, resulting in there are less in the school. Some thing goes for poorer students. The large majority of the Princeton area has incredibly high tax and living rates, therefore there are less children that are poorer within the lottery. It’s a ripple effect. Before bashing PCS on all this terrible flaws in ratings, take a look at their biased board which promotes their profits over a teacher’s salary and health insurance. A PCS teacher makes 20-30k less per year than a PHS or Princeton public school teacher. The student population for this situation isn’t the issue.

  • Friend to Friend

    Hi Martha: Don’t worry too much about Ms. Winslow. She’s pretty well established herself as a known crazy.

  • James

    You got through PHS fine because you’re most likely a wealthy, white, cis, straight, able-bodied male. Princeton prides itself on being inclusive and progressive, but the teachers, students and administrators there were some of the most racist and elitist people I have ever met.

  • Upset

    Unlike playing Nazi beer pong, (which is stupid and offensive, I’m not defending those idiots), this is an ACTUAL HATE CRIME, yet it is not international news. In fact, this is the only place I’ve seen this reported. What a world.

  • Martin

    I see where you’re coming from, but based on my experience, it’d be because she had friends she cared about who went there, and wanted to see how things had turned out for them, and reconnect.

  • Joe

    I went through the whole Princeton school system, K-12, many lifetimes ago. Overall and on average, it was a great experience and the education was great. By some miracle, I was not bullied or teased even though I was bully material. By most standards, the Princeton school system is highly rated in a state that aways ranks in the top tier of states along with MA and CT. People seem too ready to condemn Princeton schools based on 2 or 3 incidents. Princeton Charter School does not accept all the kids throughout the year. There are specific registration and acceptance times. Yes, anybody can apply to PCS and hope they win the lottery but this school does not have the same percentages of poor kids and kids with more extreme special needs. As Rutgers professor Bruce Baker has pointed out, PCS ends up being an elite private school on the backs of the regular Princeton schools.

  • Blake Cash

    What kind of parent named you “.”?

    But by all means, give us your white wash story, when you can’t even give your name.

  • Girl928

    Beautiful!

  • Liz Winslow

    It would have been refreshing to have heard, “Wow, I’m so sorry this happened to your son. Let’s meet for coffee to explore how we can make sure all of our students’ needs are met, including that of basic physical safety.” Instead – “Wow, this sounds borderline unbelievable, let’s meet for coffee so I can explain how you misunderstood our school.”

    You have alternately called me “upset” and “angry,” thereby implying I’m not being fully rational; dismissed the events as I described them as being so out of character at LB that no adult “willingly” would have ignored them, thus implying there are bits missing from the story; and stating that LB does not “bury” bullying complaints. And I guess somehow, participating in science expos means that we signed off on every LB experience our child had.

    You’ve validated feelings you think I’ve had, but at no time have you validated my son’s experiences. Instead – with your 22 years of time at LB – you’ve responded by circling the internet wagons.

    Thank you, Ms. Friend. Your very response has encapsulated why we decided that remaining at LB and hoping for better outcomes for our son was a waste of precious, precious time.

  • Martha Friend

    I was not accusing you of lying, Ms. Winslow, simply of unfairly characterizing LB as a place that buries bullying complaints and one that has adults ignore screams from a child in need of help. Your son’s experience after school on a playground sounds very upsetting. I wish I had been there. I was not so I can only rely on the years of watching children play on playgrounds at our school to say that it does not reflect what I know to be our school climate. Adults do not willingly ignore child screams for help. Your son’s injury that occurred during the afterschool program must have also been just as upsetting. LB does not “bury” bullying complaints. Period. I guess you and I will continue to disagree about the values of our school and commitment to children. If you want to continue chatting in this manner, that’s fine, or I’d still be happy to meet you in Princeton sometime.

  • Liz Winslow

    As for when he came home needing stitches – I am happy to refer you to the surgeon who put five of them in his face, since you apparently disbelieve me there, too. The same person continued to run the afterschool program, ergo, hard to believe any action was taken.

  • Liz Winslow

    Ms. Friend, you were not on the playground that day, I was, and I “mischaracterize” nothing – four children, two of whose names I know, held him down, one on each limb, and removed his shoes. I was carrying a newborn at the time, so I was a bit slow in moving toward him. I do not appreciate you insinuating that I am lying. His love of science and my husband’s participation in the expo have nothing to do with his treatment on the playground.

  • Phs74

    My advice: travel the world and then you will realize how lucky and privileged you were to have been educated at Phs

  • Phs74

    For you Martin, I shall explain: why to go back to reunion for more pain?

  • Martha Friend

    Ms. Winslow, I’ve been a teacher at LB for the past 22 years and can not imagine a situation like what you describe being ignored by any school personnel. I’m so sorry you feel so angry about the treatment of your son at our school, whom I remember to have loved science. Your husband, in fact, participated in our LB Science Expo which was appreciated. Your characterization of our school and our principal is unfair. I would be more than happy to meet with you to hear more about your concerns. I’m glad your son has services in place and is happy at PCS. My colleagues and our principal are educators because we care about the education of all children. No bullying complaints are buried at LB. No adults ignore screams by a child. Your characterization of LB is simply wrong. Please reach out if you’d like to chat about this further as I’d be happy to meet you for coffee. My email is fivesibs@gmail.com

  • Martin

    How?

  • Martin

    Um…I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

  • Valerie Walker

    no, i most definitely was not there, which was why I was very careful to say “if” the incident happened as reported, you must have just missed that.

  • krystalknapp

    The words attacked and jumped don’t even appear in our story.

  • g3st

    As a recent graduate of Princeton’s school system (class of 2015), I’m sorry to tell you that not much has changed. Granted, I was super awkward throughout high school and I was really bad at social skills towards the beginning, but even when you account for that, they were incredibly harsh on me. I felt like I fit in nowhere.

  • Phs74

    Uninformed

  • Laughing

    Lol you must have been there right? Oh wait you weren’t…

  • Phs74

    Lying or masochist?

  • Valerie Walker

    uh huh

  • Elizabeth A. Richter

    Princeton has always been mean, vicious, bullying and nasty. I recall that I had to defend my disabled little brother from bullies as early as kindergarten when I lived in Princeton–and it didn’t stop there. I graduated Princeton High in ’74. I still experience the same kind of bad attitudes when I return for reunions or just come back and visit. The same kind of condescension–the same kind of social arrogance. I feel sorry for those people.

  • .

    What a joke! Planet Princeton with more liberal spewing bullshit. This student was not “attacked” nor “jumped” he started a fight with a group of students than walked away and came back mutually to fight. He chose to fight with the kids he fought with. Confirmed by every student that watched the incident

  • Liz Winslow

    I mentioned it widely to teachers, but did not officially report, in fairness. There seemed to be no point; LB’s response to a 7-8 year old kid with problems was to have him spend half his life in the principal’s office, so my assumption was that if we tried to lodge a bullying complaint, it would be buried (worth noting: when he was 5 and came home from the afterschool program needing stitches because of another child in 2012 and we complained to Annie Kosek, I know of no action ever taken, so we had reason to doubt action being taken). We doubled down on finding a new medical team and a new school for him, and that has helped. He now receives OT, PT (he has muscle problems and was weak to boot), and more therapy than he had before. But fundamentally, he wasn’t a cool kid, and his mom didn’t play ball doing whatever the administration wanted – so better to spend the time planning the best exit possible.

  • Valerie Walker

    I emailed a few administrators about this and was told that the investigation is on-going, therefore, confidential. However, I am aware that at least 2 of the 3 boys (the “puncher” and one of the students who recorded the incident) were allowed to walk in graduation. Not a Zero Tolerance message, if this assault did happen as reported above.

  • Marcus

    One thing you can’t hide is when you are crippled inside!

  • PrincetonResident

    Was this incident reported to the school district and was any action taken?

  • Liz Winslow

    Not surprising. Among other incidents, I showed up to elementary school pickup one day a couple of years ago to find my autistic son (not diagnosed at that point) being held down by four kids and having his shoes removed as he screamed and aides were oblivious. One of many reasons we are much happier at Charter – this kind of thing hasn’t happened there.

  • John Von Neumann

    This is really pretty sad if a bunch of seniors ganged up on a developmentally disabled junior. I hope this isn’t going to be downplayed like the Nazi beer pong incident.

  • Blake Cash

    At least this caused me to look up whether Asperger’s is Autism or just a symptom. As of 2013 it is in the DSM-5 it is within the diagnosis.

    One reason patients with Asperger’s are bullied more is because they are high functioning and more likely to interact with the low functioning “normal” people.

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