Mother Crashes Minivan into School

Susan Snyder, Thomas J. Gibbons Jr. and Ira Porter, Philadelphia Inquirer, May 25

A white parent irate over her children’s treatment at nearly all-black Samuel B. Huey Public School in West Philadelphia rammed her minivan—with her daughter and two sons inside—into the school’s front doors yesterday morning in apparent protest.

Shannon Berthiaume, 33, of the 5400 block of Chestnut Street, was arrested and charged with aggravated and simple assault, recklessly endangering other persons, endangering the welfare of children, and possession of an instrument of crime, police said.

No one was seriously injured, but bus attendant Viola Littlejohn, 44, who was at the front door as Berthiaume rammed the building with her Ford Windstar, was treated for bruises and swelling at Presbyterian-University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. She later was released.

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Middleton said that the children were about to get out of the car when someone started calling them names.

“She told me, ‘I’m sick of them calling them names. I’m sick of the spitting and the fighting. These people won’t listen to me.’ “

She then rammed her car into the building, Middleton said.

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Perez said district officials had met with Berthiaume several times to address her concerns and had proposed holding an assembly for students at Huey on race issues. She said the principal, Cynthia Gary, had spoken to the mother as recently as Monday.

Berthiaume’s children had transferred to Huey in December from the Willard School in Kensington, Perez said. Their mother began complaining in January that her children were being picked on.

Perez said there had been one altercation and at least one other disturbance involving Berthiaume’s children. Parents were brought in to discuss the problems, and children were disciplined, Perez said. She would not provide details.

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