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3 students stabbed at Pa. school; attacker found with explosive materials

By Kathleen Brady Shea and Art Carey

Inquirer Staff Writers

Officials discuss a crime scene while standing in front of the Antietam Middle-Senior High School Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
READING, Pa. — Three students were stabbed at a junior-senior high school near Reading yesterday by another student who brought explosive material to the school.

The three students suffered minor injuries during a confrontation with the 13-year-old before he was overpowered by school officials.

The alleged attacker at Antietam Middle-Senior High School in Lower Alsace Township was taken into custody by police after school officials disarmed him.

Students said the eighth grader was being harassed by a 16-year-old and other students.

About a half-dozen teens who live in the suspect's neighborhood said he was regularly picked on and had threatened revenge.

Police said the student, who was not identified, brought two duffle bags to school.

One contained his regular school gear; the other contained several knives, small firecrackers, a respirator, a gas can that was partially filled, and a water bottle that apparently was filled with some type of lantern fuel.

A 16-year-old girl was taken to Reading Hospital with cuts to both hands.

Doctors also treated a 15-year-old girl with a small wound on the upper back and a 14-year-old youth with a small wound to his upper-right arm, a hospital spokesman said. The injuries were not life-threatening, and all three students were treated and released.

Officer Ray Sarafin of the Central Berks Regional Police Department, right, pauses during a news conference along with district attorney John Adams, center, and State Trooper Lt. Tom McDaniel as they discuss the events at the Pa. school Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
The alleged assailant lives in a red-brick 1 1/2-story single-family house in a suburban neighborhood on the outskirts of Reading. He is an only child, neighbors said.

Central Berks Regional Police Department information officer Ray Serafin said they found a note at the boy's home.

Serafin said the student revealed he "had some issues with being at school."

He left a note for his mother saying "Mom, I'm so sorry. I love you. Goodbye," the Associated Press reported.

Police and school officials gave this account:

Shortly after 8 a.m., the student, who had skipped homeroom and had been marked absent, went into his scheduled first-period English class and began pointing at other students before grabbing the 16-year-old female classmate, throwing her to the floor, and stabbing her with a knife.

Other students rushed to the girl's aid, allowing the attacker to leave the classroom. The student was then confronted by James Snyder, the school principal, and at least one other teacher.

Snyder said he talked to the student for about 15 minutes, trying to calm him down. During that conversation, the student had a propane canister under his arm.

"The student appeared calm, but he clearly was very angry with school personnel, the students and everything about the school," Snyder said. "We talked to him and tried to get him to come to my office, but he refused."

During the conversation, English teacher David Kase walked up from behind the student and knocked the propane canister from his arm. Snyder and a math teacher were then able to restrain the youth.

"We just held him against the wall," said Snyder, adding that police arrived "within seconds."

"He used the word hate frequently," Snyder said. "I hate the school; I hate you."

Snyder said he did not know of any warning signs. "There's nothing that triggers me to say 'I saw this coming,' " said Snyder. "I would classify him as a regular student. Nothing out of the ordinary," he said.

Snyder added: "This was not a frequent flyer to my office."

The school was evacuated shortly after the stabbings. The red-brick building was surrounded by a dozen fire trucks and emergency vehicles.

Police evacuated residents living within a block of the school, which enrolls 540 students in grades seven through 12 and is about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

Officials said school would be open today, with counseling available for students.

"It's unfortunate that one individual can generate this type of reaction," school district superintendent Larry Mayes said. He added that he was pleased with the way the matter was handled. "A lot of agencies came together today to prevent what could have been a very tragic situation."

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