U-46 officials underscore school safety in wake of attack on student
Officials from Elgin-area schools on Monday night underscored the security of the district's buildings and measures they have undertaken to ensure students' safety over the past several years.
The report came on the heels of a brutal attack Friday on a Kenyon Woods Middle School student by a classmate.
Henry Sembdner, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at the South Elgin school, has been hospitalized at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge since shortly after the assault. He spent much of the weekend in an induced coma recovering from brain and skull injuries suffered when he was severely beaten.
Elgin Area School District U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said the district has made great strides since 2007 toward providing a safe culture for all students, yet acknowledged that, at times, things happen beyond the administration's control.
"You can see it in the investments the board has made. You can see it in the responsiveness of our staff, our phenomenal teachers, counselors, deans and numerous others," he said. "That said, sometimes bad things happen like what happened last week at Kenyon Woods."
Sanders lauded the school community's handling of the crisis and the people rallying behind the Sembdner family.
"The nice thing is that we have really resilient staff and really resilient students that pick up and move on and honor and support the family that is struggling at this particular moment," he said.
Several members in the audience wore green to show their concern for Henry.
The student suspected of assaulting Henry was taken into police custody and the investigation is ongoing. South Elgin Police Chief Jerry Krawczyk said the department will work with the Kane County State's Attorney's office to determine how to proceed.
U-46 had counselors and extra teachers available for the students Monday.
"Not only do we support Henry, we also support the student who allegedly caused this," Sanders said. "We support him through counseling and through other resources. What you see in terms of physical structure and processes doesn't get to the heart of what U-46 is, and how we respond when somebody within U-46 is hurting."
Sanders' comments came after John Heiderscheidt, U-46 director of school safety and culture, spoke about a reduction in the number of out-of-school suspensions and providing trauma-informed care for troubled students.
"Our kids are facing trauma and the escalations that we see in school are more likely caused by those things in the background," said Heiderscheidt adding, keeping troubled kids in school and providing interventions are the best ways to helping them.
Henry's family has set up a page on CaringBridge.org to update supporters of his condition.
"Henry is in a regular room! We have been moved to the pediatric side as of this afternoon. He is still resting but we are having conversations and he's eating. He's asking to read all the cards that he has received and is very thankful for them! More to come when he takes a nap!" his mother, Karen DeWilde Sembdner, wrote Monday evening.