Students Plaster Car with Post-it Notes, Offer Support to Injured Classmate

A 17-year-old Harvard-Westlake senior was charged Thursday with attempted murder and assault stemming from a hammer attack late Monday afternoon on an 18-year-old Harvard-Westlake senior girl, police said.
The victim, whose name was withheld, underwent surgery and is being treated for a broken leg, broken nose and head injuries, police said. The boy, whose name was withheld because he is a minor, was hospitalized for psychiatric care, his attorney, Patrick Smith, told reporters.
The incident occurred about a block away from the Coldwater Canyon campus while many students were at school attending Peer Support, sports practices and working on school publications.

The first lockdown in school history was underway. Head Prefect Sammy McGowan ’07 rushed from classroom to classroom at around 6 p.m. Monday evening, canceling Peer Support and directing students to Chalmers West.

With every Peer Support group accounted for in Chalmers, Chaplain Father J. Young explained the facts. A senior boy reportedly had beaten a senior girl, and an ambulance was taking the girl to a hospital. Police had not caught the alleged perpetrator. It was possible he was still at large and might walk into Chalmers, Young said. For this reason, Young revealed the suspect’s identity to assembled students.

“I don’t feel comfortable quite yet letting you go home, but I won’t keep you here forever,” Young said. “Take good care of each other.”

Students eventually left in twos and threes or called parents to pick them up. Young told students to tell their Peer Support group leaders when they left.

School administrators continued to rely on student-run associations throughout the week to keep students informed. After Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts sent an e-mail informing parents and students of the attack and announcing an all-school assembly at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, student government leaders formed an informal phone tree to get out the word. Head Prefects McGowan and Hailey Orr ’07 spoke at an all-school assembly Tuesday. Peer Support leaders manned a “break room” in which students made cards for the victim and discussed the situation.

At the assembly, Huybrechts read aloud a Daily News account which she said was fairly accurate. McGowan, Orr, Huybrechts and President Thomas C. Hudnut spoke of the need to stick together as a community. Young called the school a “caring community.” Hudnut said he would go further, calling the school a “loving family.”

Students should “be of each other a little more careful than of anything else,” Hudnut said.

Citing privacy concerns, Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra said that the identity of the suspected assailant was not being announced, even though many students knew who he was.

Four extra security guards and 13 police officers offered extra security on Tuesday on the Upper

School campus and security was also ramped up on the Middle School campus, Head of Security Kevin Giberson said. Police officers were also outside the suspect’s house. Seniors were allowed to go off campus only with their parents’ permission and the promise that they would not return to school.

With the extra guards manning entrances to the school, Giberson walked around the quad, making sure students felt comfortable at school.

“We want the students to feel at ease, safe, like they can ask questions,” he said.

Media trucks parked outside the school. During the all-school assembly, Hudnut recommended that students avoid talking to the media. Despite Hudnut’s advice, one student gave a video interview to CBS, the only one currently circulating online.

At an impromptu senior assembly, Nuriel Moghavem ’07, a senior prefect, gave an update on the victim’s condition. She had a broken nose and was scheduled for surgery to repair a fractured leg but was in good spirits when he visited her the previous evening, he said.

Moghavem encouraged his fellow students to write notes to the victim and paste them on her car, where pens and heart-shaped post-its were available.

“Her car is still at school, and I think it would be a nice surprise for her to come back and not be able to see her car,” Moghavem said. He laughed, as did the audience. By the end of the day, the car’s paint job was almost totally covered by a coat of post-its.

Scores of the victim’s classmates, teachers and school administrators visited her at the hospital, where her room was festooned with a huge card signed by students, dozens of bouquets of flowers, fruit, cookies and other gifts.

Although her injured leg was in traction, she told visitors she hoped she would be released from the hospital and would be able to make an appearance at Saturday night’s senior prom.