DATE June 26, 2007 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Frank Burd and Ed Klein, both high school teachers,
both victims of assault, talk about their assault, their
interaction with parents, and the fallout from the events
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
Many of America's inner city schools are in neighborhoods plagued by violence.
Teachers do their best to keep their classrooms safe, but their authority is
often challenged, they're sometimes threatened by students, and in some cases
physically attacked. We're going to hear from two teachers who were assaulted
in their schools in Philadelphia, the city we broadcast from. Their stories
tell a larger story about the difficulties of teaching in inner city public
Frank Burd is a 60-year-old math teacher who was assaulted by two students at
Germantown High School last February. His neck was broken and he sustained a
brain injury. A few months before that, in November, 55-year-old music
teacher Ed Klein was attacked in West Philadelphia High School. His jaw was
broken and he suffered a concussion.
Frank Burd, Ed Klein, welcome to FRESH AIR. Frank, I want to start with you.
Tell us the story of how you were assaulted.
Mr. FRANK BURD: I was teaching by Algebra II class in the morning, and, as
usual, I wait outside in the hall till the bell rings, and I came into my
classroom. But before I began that day, I kind of showed some pictures of the
cheerleaders' event the night before. And then the class settled in, and we
started putting homework on the board, and a couple of students came in late,
and that's par for the course. I didn't say very much. But one student came
in late, went to the back of the room, and I didn't notice him because he
wasn't bothering me. I was working with the kids in the front of the room and
Then suddenly I hear music, loud music, and I don't know where it's coming
from, and I see a couple of fingers pointing. Because the kids know they're
not supposed to be playing music in the room. And I see there's a kid who's
got--who is plugged into an iPod, and I'm hearing it from the front of the
room and he's in the back of the room, so you know how loud it is. I called
to the kid, and his name is known now, the kid's name is Dante, and I said,
`Dante, turn that down.' And he doesn't hear me because it's so loud. So,
`Dante, turn it down.' Finally I walk up to him and he sees me more than he
hears me, and he looks up and I say, `Dante, got to turn that off now.' And he
looks back at me, giving me no response. And I take a step back, and as soon
as I take a step back, he turns it up again. `Dante, you've got to turn it
off,' I tell him. `If you don't turn it off, I've got to take it away.' And
he doesn't do it, and we're just kind of eye to eye for a minute.
Then finally, he puts the iPod on the desk in front of him, and I think, `Oh,
confrontation over,' because I'm really looking to kind of move on. I pick up
the iPod, walk a couple of steps, and that's the last thing I remember.
Apparently I went into the hallway. In the hallway, he followed me. This is
what I know from both surveillance tapes and from what I've heard. He shoved
me into the arms of some kid who was not supposed to be there, who then shoved
me back into Dante, who shoved me again. This other kid then took punches at
my face, drove my head into a locker, then into the floor, where I was lying
in a pool of blood with no memory of any of this going on ever. I don't
remember it now, and I was only told this and shown this by a lot of
eyewitnesses, because of the many students in the hall.
Did you actually watch the surveillance tape?
Mr. BURD: The surveillance tape really showed the push. It didn't show the
punching. And I was asked if I wanted to see it, and I did. It did not show
the details because that was at the top end of the tape at the far end. I
only saw the shoves from the back. I did not see the kid who punched me. I
did not know the kid who punched me.
GROSS: So what were the injuries you sustained?
Mr. BURD: I was told that when I was on the floor by the nurse, I was trying
to get up, and I kept saying, `I can't get up, my neck hurts.' Again, I
remember none of this. I was told when I woke up in the hospital that I had a
broken neck, which didn't mean anything to me because I didn't know what a
broken neck meant I had five broken bones in my neck, and I had five vertebrae
that were cracked or were crushed. I also didn't know at that time that I had
a brain injury. I didn't realize--I knew there was some blood on my head, but
I didn't realize my head had been stitched up, and I had a serious injury
there. And I had no clue that I had a shoulder injury, and wouldn't learn
about that until a couple of weeks later when I stopped taking the morphine.
GROSS: What kind of brain injury?
Mr. BURD: I don't fully understand. I'm coming to understand brain injuries
now, but it affected my ability to concentrate, to handle two things--to
multitask, so to speak. I spent a lot of weeks in therapy trying to write
something while somebody would be talking elsewhere in the room. I could not
concentrate at all. On top of that, my memory, my short term memory, was
constantly being wiped out. My brain was unable to create memories.
GROSS: We'll get back to your story in a minute, Frank.
Ed Klein, tell us how you were assaulted. And I should preface this by
saying, you had taught in Philadelphia area schools for about 18 years.
Mr. ED KLEIN: Right.
GROSS: And you had just been transferred to a new school, I think, because of
budget cuts at the school that you'd been in.
Mr. KLEIN: Right, I was at South Philly High School for a couple of years,
and a month into this year, with no notice whatsoever, I was told that music
was dropped from South Philly, which was me, because I was the only music
teacher. And I was told that the only vacancy was at West Philly as an
instrumental teacher, a band teacher, even though I was a vocal teacher. So I
went to West Philly, and since they had substitutes, rotation of teachers for
a month, it was utter pandemonium. I did my very best. There were a lot of
difficulties in controlling the classes, so the next logical step was to call
their parents, which I did quite a bit of. After that, I was able to get four
of the five classes under control so that I was able to at least present a
lesson and get some response.
But in the fifth class, there was a big student that came up to me after
class, and I had spoken to his mother a couple of times, and he was just put
back into the school after being in some sort of alternative education
circumstance, and he told me I better stop calling parents or I would be in
trouble. And I didn't listen to him, and I continued to call parents, and the
next day, at the conclusion of that class, an intruder came in and sprayed me
with a fire extinguisher from head to toe. The next day at the same time, the
same event occurred. On the third day, a large person came in at the same
time and said he was going to kill me after school, using several obscenities,
because I got his friend suspended. I had no idea what he was talking about.
The fourth day, four kids surrounded my desk, began pulling things off the
desk, and one of them said to me, `There ain't nothing you can do about this,
cracker.' At that point I gave up.
And the next morning I came in and told the person at the metal detector that
I couldn't work in the building anymore, and that I would make as smooth a
transition as possible, but the conditions were such that it became
impossible. Of course, I never made it through the day. At the same time,
person appeared in the class. I asked him his name, he refused to give me his
name. I asked him to leave, he refused to leave. I went outside to get the
school police officer who had been posted in the area, who had helped me in
the past. I'm sure she was running after somebody else; this was in between
classes. This kid came out of the class, walked around in front of me,
squared off in right directly in front of me, and began to behave like a
boxer. So I picked my hands up, and that was the last thing I remember.
He fractured the right side of my jaw. I suffered a concussion because my
head slammed against the stationary door behind me, and I was on the floor. I
was taken by ambulance to a local hospital.
GROSS: So you had a concussion and a broken jaw?
Mr. KLEIN: Concussion and a broken jaw. My jaw had to be wired shut for six
weeks. I lived on, well, liquids.
GROSS: And what happened to the student who was your assailant?
Mr. KLEIN: This, of course, is one of the worst things that occurred. The
entire thing is worthy of a Rod Serling script. I would say about a month and
a half after the incident, I became overwhelmed with paranoia, and I called
the school district, and they directed me to the juvenile court system, and I
was finally able to get ahold of the prosecutor that was appointed to my case.
He said that I had already missed the first hearing, and as it turns out, they
had the wrong address.
To make this brief, I came in for the court date, which was on January 2nd,
and I gave testimony before a judge, and the kid was let off. I had
identified him in photographs at the local precinct, which was corroborated by
two witnesses that were in the halls when I was hit. These two witnesses were
subpoenaed, supposedly they didn't show up. I was then put in front of a
line-up, and I had seen this person two times. He was in one of my other
classes. He came once in the three weeks that I was there. I did pick him
out, and in spite of all this, he was exonerated. I was not permitted in the
courtroom during the verdict. And it was, I would say, as bad if not worse
than the assault itself.
GROSS: Frank, what happened to the students who beat you up?
Mr. BURD: There are two students, one of which I knew, was obviously a
student in my class. Actually, a student in my class who was a pretty good
student, who was a B student, was a student I liked, was a student who I
thought respected me. He was the one who did the shoving, he's the one who
began the incident that led to my injuries. He wound up at a disciplinary
school that's kind of minimum security, where he's in a house with nine or 10
others, and he can continue his education. He had applied to--he was a senior
and had been accepted to some colleges. When in court, the judge asked him
why he did it. He said something like, `It was just immature. I just acted
out. It was just not like me.'
And the other kid, the other kid was a ninth grader, a ninth grader who, I
have since been told probably shouldn't have been there. He was a ninth
grader who had already punched a teacher at another school, had been sent to a
disciplinary school, then mainstreamed back to Germantown High School where I
teach. And he was a kid who cut classes; who, I learned in court, did drugs;
who, I learned in court, was a crack baby; who, I learned in court, was in
trouble, discipline trouble, from the time he was five; who was shuffled from
home to home. He was a real problem. When I saw him in court, though--you
have to understand, I saw this young man, 14, beautiful-looking kid, beautiful
features, short, and I looked at him and I said to myself, `This kid hurt me
so much?' Because, remember, I did not see what happened.
Mr. BURD: Or I did not remember what happened. I listened to what went on
in the court, and the judge was very firm, and he sent him to a kind of reform
school--that's what I would call it, I don't know the names of them--where
it's much more security. And he is been remanded there until he is at least
four years or till he's 21. The judge said he would be looking in on both
kids every six months to see if anything needed to be changed. The older boy,
Dante, incidentally, was 18, and he's the same thing, till 21 unless let out
GROSS: My guests are Ed Klein and Frank Burd, two high school teachers who
were attacked in their schools. We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH
GROSS: We're talking about teaching in tough neighborhoods and dealing with
some students who are violent. My guests are two high school teachers who
were attacked on the job. Frank Burd's neck was broken, and he sustained a
brain injury. Ed Klein's jaw was broken.
Now, Frank, one thing that interests me about your story is that you had
taught in Philadelphia schools for about 24 years.
Mr. BURD: Mm-hmm.
GROSS: I know when a teacher is new to a school, they're tested. And they're
pushed just to see, you know, `How's this teacher going to do, can they hold
their own?' But I always thought that if you had proved yourself, and if the
kids knew that you were there for real and you weren't going to be walking
away, you were going to be coming back year after year, that there was a
certain level of physical intimidation that they would cut out. But that's
one of the things I found so upsetting about your story, that it just seemed
to like violate that code. You were a known, trusted and popular teacher, and
yet you were assaulted.
Mr. BURD: I agree with what you're suggesting, and to some degree that's
true. But the fact of the matter is, each group of kids that comes into your
class is a new group testing you again. Sometimes some of the older kids will
influence some of the younger kids and say, `Leave him alone, he's OK.' And
you'd be surprised at how many of the older kids sometimes have your back in
some ways, and are telling them, `Yeah, leave him alone, that's Mr.
So-and-So, and he's a good guy.'
But nevertheless, the kids come with so many issues and so many problems that
they're not necessarily even picking on you, they're picking on any teachers
who is in front of the room who's trying to control them in a way they don't
want to be controlled. When you teach what I teach, math, that's even
tougher, because it's most people's worst subject. So they are turned off
before they meet me, they don't know me. Even if they hear, `Oh, he's good,'
but if in fact they can't multiply or do a fraction and I'm trying to teach
them an equation, the frustration level begins immediately, things kick in
from stuff happening at home, and it makes it a very confrontational
situation, which is why as a teacher I try to defuse things constantly.
GROSS: Now, Ed, you were in a different situation, because although you'd
taught for a long time, you were new to this school. And you got transferred
to this school after the semester started, which is always a difficult thing.
The classes had substitute teachers before you got there. And within a month,
you were assaulted.
Mr. KLEIN: Three weeks.
GROSS: Three weeks. So...
Mr. KLEIN: Not to contradict you, but...
GROSS: So what kind of backup did you have?
Mr. KLEIN: Well, I went through the channels that you're supposed to. I
wrote up serious incident reports. But everybody in the school gave me the
impression of being completely overwhelmed. And as far as backup is
concerned, I mean, there was a school police officer posted in the area. As I
say, she had helped me in the past. But I was constantly--constantly they
were attempting to intimidate me, I'm assuming that they were just able to do
what they wanted during the period. I mean, music in the first place is,
generally speaking, not taken seriously, and...
GROSS: And you were teaching classical music?
Mr. KLEIN: I wasn't teaching classical music at all. I used a curriculum by
Wynton Marsalis, which I actually secured through an interview with the
Enquirer some years ago. And I incorporated as much current music as I could.
I had a very definite curriculum that I had created and followed, and it
certainly was nowhere near Mozart.
The students would come in and put a listening device down next to their
phone, and a bag of food. And that was typical, and extremely difficult to
deal with, and...
GROSS: And that's a test in a way, isn't it?
Mr. KLEIN: Mm-hmm.
GROSS: Like, `I'm doing something that you're not allowed to do in the class,
let's see what Mr. Klein does about it.'
Mr. KLEIN: Right. And like I say, I would call parents. On some occasions,
it would help. I had parents come down to the school. But all the teachers
in the school, or let me say most of the teachers in the school, were having
difficulty. I understand there were multiple assaults in the two weeks prior
to my getting knocked out, and suffice to say, I've been in the school
district for 18 years, and I couldn't work in the building anymore.
GROSS: Do you feel particularly betrayed because you stuck it out and because
you liked even the kids who were the biggest behavioral problems, and your
reward for that at about the age of 60 is getting knocked unconscious and
sustaining very serious, you know, neck, shoulder and brain injuries?
Mr. BURD: I don't feel betrayed by students. I feel angry at the kid who
did it. But there were so many kids who came to my support and my defense,
literally when I was on the ground, one of the students who was in the hall
and saw it ran down after the kid and collared the kid and brought him back.
Other kids, you know, held me in their arms. Another kid saw my cell phone
fall out, called 911. The people who came up to the hospital with caring and
love. I'm upset what happened to me, but it's like the anger which was there
at first has really defused. I'm angry at my situation now.
GROSS: Ed, what about you? What's your anger like? What's your anger level
Mr. KLEIN: This is a tough one. Because, as I say, it was a series of
events. The assault itself was, needless to say, horrible. Two weeks after
my jaw was wired shut, I went to see a workmen's compensation physician, which
you have to do periodically. And this gentleman had the unmitigated gall to,
after a 15-second exam, tell me that I'm a teacher, it's not like I'm a
construction worker. I should be ready to go back to work. To say that I was
appalled, it was horrible. It thrust me into despair.
GROSS: But you were able to overrule that? I mean, you didn't go back to
Mr. KLEIN: No, I didn't go back to work. I went to see a different
physician, who was sympathetic and helpful. I lodged a complaint with
licenses and compliances for the physician that told me that, and it was just
a horrible experience. I was assaulted, then I had this experience with the
physician, and then it was capped off with the ruling at juvenile court.
GROSS: One of the things you have to do as a teacher is assert your authority
in the classroom. We've talked about this a little bit. Like if a kid has an
iPod or food in the classroom and they're not supposed to have that, it's your
job to tell them to like put it away or throw it out or whatever's, you know,
appropriate to the occasion. But you can't let them just continue doing that,
because they're just flaunting it in your face.
Mr. KLEIN: Uh-huh.
GROSS: But when you do that nowadays in school, do some students interpret
that as a sign of disrespect to them, and respond as if they've been
disrespected on the street, and they're going to, therefore, fight back
because they've been dissed?
Mr. KLEIN: I'd like to respond to that. I'd just want to make one comment
to the side. Given Frank's age and my age--I'm 55, or I was 55 at the time of
the event--it's like these kids hit their grandfather. It's really a very sad
state of affairs.
Do they feel as if they're being disrespected? I very, very much try to be
sensitive, culturally and--since I've literally studied popular rap music, I
have quite a large knowledge base, read the lyrics, listened. I understand
this. I understand the sensitivity that is necessary. Given that, I still
have to have some semblance of, `I'm the teacher and you're the students.' And
all the sensitivity in the world is not going to help you accomplish your
GROSS: Ed Klein and Frank Burd are two high school teachers who were attacked
on the job. They'll be back in the second half of the show. I'm Terry Gross,
and this is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. We're talking about the
difficulties of teaching in urban high schools. My guests are two teachers
who were attacked in Philadelphia high schools. Frank Burd is a 60-year-old
math teacher. He was assaulted by two students last February. His neck was
broken and he sustained a brain injury. Ed Klein is a 55-year-old music
teacher who was attacked in his school last November. Klein's jaw was broken.
When we left off, I had asked Ed Klein about dealing with students who
challenged him in the classroom. I asked Frank Burd the same question.
When you tell students to put away a listening device or to throw out the food
that's on the desk or put the food away, do kids interpret that as a sign of
disrespect and act as if they were disrespected on the streets and threaten
Mr. BURD: The kids who know you don't. The kids who don't know you might.
And that's where you have to really get kids to know you. Part of teaching is
to open yourself up enough to let them into--let them see that you're there
working with them, and they have to work back with you. They have to put it
away because this is what we have to do. I was told once, `Never get in the
way of two kids fighting.' I've been in the halls many times when kids were
fighting, and when I know one of them, at least one, or both, I will always,
and I have always, stepped in. I have always physically tried to pull people
apart. And when I say pull them apart, I don't mean yank on them. Kids know
when you're touching them to threaten them; kids know when you're touching
them to help them. And they, every single time I would try to pull someone
apart, kids would disengage.
It's the same thing when you're talking to someone and saying, `Put the iPod
away.' You can say, `Put that iPod away!' and the kid will take it as a
challenge. But once they get to know you, `Let's go, put it away,' you'd be
surprised, the other kids will say, `Come on, put it away.' Which is what
happened in that classroom. And so teaching is really developing trust. And
that takes time.
GROSS: Were you ever given any training in how to respond to students who
challenge you and threaten you?
Mr. KLEIN: Funny you should mention that. The summer before this school
year, I took a course given by the union in managing sociopathic behavior. I
don't remember the exact title of the class, but it was managing--I believe it
was "deviant"--deviant behavior. And I took a course, and I thought it was
good. But, you know, I just didn't learn how to duck in six years of music
conservatories, nor this course. This was just something that this kid wanted
to accomplish, and he was going to do it. And he found a way to do it. I
mean, he knocked out a 55-year-old man. I mean, it's pathetic. Utterly
Mr. BURD: I had no training. But I'm not sure that--I was pleased with the
way I handled kids, and I felt comfortable, although it was difficult and
tiring at the end of every day. I'd go home and say, `Whew, one more day.
How am I going to do this?' But I think lots of teachers feel that way. It's
a very, very hard, strenuous, stressful job, and I think what we want in terms
of security is really the backup of the administration, more so than the
backup of, say, of police and all the other stuff.
GROSS: Tell me more what you would like to see in public schools for
Mr. KLEIN: It's, again, it's a very difficult problem. It's not as if I
have a solution. But I think it's an important thing to realize that, as
Frank and I are accountable for what goes on in our classroom, a principal is
accountable for what goes on in his building. And if a teacher has problems
managing his class, he's going to have problems from the administration. If
the principal has problems controlling his building, he's going to have
problems with his administration. It's a very adversarial circumstance. It's
not a team. It doesn't function as a team. And of course the people that
suffer from this are the students. This is a very tough problem.
Mr. BURD: The students suffer, and the teachers suffer, and the principals
suffer. It seems to me that there should be some getting together, some kind
of workshop where--because we're all there for the same reason, and yet we're
not working together.
GROSS: Now, you're both white, and you both got assaulted in primarily
Mr. BURD: Mm-hmm.
GROSS: You know, the students were primarily African-American. Do you think
that race was in any way like a subtext of why you were attacked? Frank?
Mr. BURD: Not at all. I think a kid just lost it.
Mr. BURD: And another kid, who was a violent kid, who was already doing the
kind of thing, and in fact--my students are my kids. I refer to them as my
kids, "the kids." I don't use the word boy or girl, because it's got certain
connotations and so, you know. But I don't think that's apparent in the
school, and I'm glad to say that that's a change from the 1970s. Because when
I taught in the 1970s, I felt there was a lot of racial tension in a school
with the black students and a white teacher, because a lot of what was going
on in the news and in politics at that time. And faculties were divided. I'd
feel like the faculty is together in terms of its feeling, in terms of what
needs to be done, disciplinewise, and I don't the kids see color once they get
to know you. That doesn't mean that they don't see me when I walk in that
classroom as, `Oh, I have three white teachers, two black teachers.' But I
think that's forgotten after a short while, once you're into what you do.
GROSS: Now, Ed, did you think that race was a subtext in your attack?
Mr. KLEIN: Well, aside from the fact that I was referred to as a cracker
numerous times--it's hard to say. The one thing that was very clear was I was
not going to be permitted to take control of this one particular class. It
was simply not going to happen. And they were going to do whatever it took.
White, black or what have you.
GROSS: Now, you know, a lot of people say that if a student attacks you or
threatens you and you don't come back after that, then the bad guys have won.
Because what they're trying to do is scare you away from coming back, and the
way to earn the respect of students is to stand up to them and to come back
anyway. Now, it was a very extreme situation for both of you, you were both
assaulted and knocked unconscious and very badly injured. Do you have any
intention of going back and teaching, and if you don't, how would you feel if
people say, `Well, that means that the bad guys won, you know, that the bad
students won and the good students are being deprived of your teaching
Mr. KLEIN: From my own standpoint, I have good days and bad days. And it's
too early to tell at this point what I'm going to do. I'm faced with many
options. Clearly, disability is an option, but I don't know if I'm going to
lose my marbles in the, you know, in the process of not working. I'm in a
very difficult, a very difficult position as far as that's concerned, and I
don't know what I'm going to do.
Mr. BURD: I need to work, I like to work, and I like teaching. I don't know
right now about the classroom because I just got the brace off my neck a
couple of days ago, and I still am learning to turn my head left and right. I
have developed certain phobias and fears--not of students, but of anybody. If
someone walks close to me or if someone bumps my chair, I get tight and tense.
I will watch a movie which I could have seen before, and it's got a violent
piece in it, and suddenly I'm responding to it in a way that I'm not used to.
And I'm in psychotherapy right now, trying to come to grips with certain
issues because I still see myself working with kids. And I hope to somehow,
through the school district of Philadelphia, find a place where I can continue
to do that. I just don't know how.
But as terms of what you say, yeah, I don't want anybody, any students to feel
like, `You beat me.' I'm going to be back in some way or another, I just don't
GROSS: Back in the schools, or just back in spirit?
Mr. BURD: I'll be back somewhere with the school district doing something.
I don't know. It's like, how can I not go to football games and photograph
the kids? How could I not--I went to the prom in May because I wanted to see
the kids. I've been up to the school. I've been to some of the events. I
just, I miss it. But I don't know where I'm going to wind up.
Mr. KLEIN: Can I just make one brief comment...
GROSS: Yeah, go ahead.
Mr. KLEIN: As far as this--the bad guys did win in my case. He was
exonerated. They won. I mean, this is information that's certainly going to
circulate very rapidly. The kid was arrested, apparently he was locked up for
10 days. But he received no further punishment for knocking a teacher
GROSS: Well, one of the differences between the two of you and your assaults,
Frank, you have no memory of your assault. You were knocked unconscious and
you don't have a memory of the assault. You don't even have a memory of your
period of hospitalization.
Mr. BURD: I had it for a day, and then it would be erased.
Mr. BURD: It was like I was living in one of these movies, what is it, every
day you wake up and it's a new day and you don't remember what happened
GROSS: OK. And, Ed, on the other hand, you have flashbacks of what happened.
Mr. KLEIN: Every day. Every day.
Mr. KLEIN: I feel the assault. I feel the crack of my jaw, I hear it in my
mind. It's an everyday thing.
I have something else to add. Once again, I'll be as brief as I can. When I
was knocked out, I interviewed with a reporter at the Enquirer. And I spoke
with to someone in the school district, in the safety sphere, not to pinpoint
this person directly, and told him that I was going to go to the press. And
he said to me, `You know where your bread is buttered. I wouldn't do that.'
So I didn't. I allowed myself to be intimidated. Several months later, Frank
gets his neck broken, and I didn't sleep at all for three days because I felt
responsible because I didn't go to the press.
GROSS: How do you think going to the press would have stopped Frank's
Mr. KLEIN: People tell me, including Frank himself, that that's ridiculous.
But I can't help this feeling, and perhaps if I came forward at that
time--since that time, there's been literally an avalanche of people that have
been assaulted. I'm sure that the both of us are the tip of the iceberg.
Mr. BURD: When I graduated from college, I wanted to go into teaching. I
really liked my teachers, and there were a lot of young teachers. There are
very few young teachers. You ask people in school today, `Well, what do you
want to do?' And you suggest teaching, and either they say `No.' Or those who
come in, they don't last five years. It's not a welcomed environment. It's
not a place that I remember enjoying when I was a student. And that makes me
real sad, because the future of education needs these people.
On top of that, since this incident, I am approached by so many people whose
parents, children, brothers, sisters, wives and themselves who've said, `I
left teaching because I couldn't take it. I left teaching because I couldn't
take it.' I am just floored by the quantity of people who--some came from
industry, because they wanted to move over and they wanted to teach, and they
didn't last the year. This is not unusual, where the teacher population just
drops in the first couple of months because new teachers don't make it.
GROSS: My guests are Frank Burd and Ed Klein, two Philadelphia high school
teachers who were attacked in their schools. We'll talk more after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: We're talking about teaching tough neighborhoods and dealing with some
students who are violent. My guests are two Philadelphia high school teachers
who were attacked on the job. Frank Burd's neck was broken, and he sustained
a brain injury. Ed Klein's jaw was broken.
Frank, having taught in the schools for a long time, when you time a call a
parent now--and I know it's been a few months since you've been in this
situation because of the assault...
Mr. BURD: Mm-hmm.
GROSS: But do you get different responses than you used to get when you call
parents? Has the situation with parents changed, too?
Mr. BURD: Oh, yeah. We had parents' night--I forget when the last one was,
a month before this incident, and I have about 140 students, and I got seven
parents come. And I talked to some of the other teachers. I got the high
number on my corridor. Others had two and three and four. Where are the
parents? Why aren't they coming up? Why aren't they taking more active role?
I have students who really are living in three different houses with a cousin,
with an aunts, and with a grandparent. I have students who have two children
at home. I have students whose parents are drug addicts and have been raised
by other people. I think kids today are growing up under enormous difficulty
And I don't want to sit here and blame all parents, but perhaps those are the
parents that the kids who we wind up with in the general school--I know there
are a lot of people in Germantown, probably, who can get themselves into one
of these special schools, whether it be Central or Girls. Or parents will
send their kids to parochial schools. But what happens when they act out in
parochial school or they act out in Central? They get assigned to Germantown.
So that's what we wind up with.
Mr. KLEIN: My experience with parents, I would say, by and large, has been
pretty good. I mean, I've had some tough ones, but I think it's important to
note that I was able to get four classes out of the five functional. This one
class, there was an element that was determined to get me out of there. But
on the one hand, the parents tend to be incredibly young. In each one of the
classes that I've had at South Philly and at West Philly, there were pregnant
women in every class. So you're talking about a whole, you know, a lot of
people that are going to be very young mothers. And they express to me their
exasperation, sometimes it was very difficult to get a parent or a guardian,
but if I was persistent enough, I did make headway. There was nothing I could
do with this person who I believe was the mastermind, even though I spoke to
his mother on several occasion. She was actually very supportive. She also
said, `There's nothing I can do with him.'
GROSS: Supportive of you?
Mr. KLEIN: She was supportive of me.
Mr. BURD: And I get the same thing.
Mr. KLEIN: She talked to him numerous times, enough so that he came up to me
and said, `You better stop doing that.'
GROSS: What have you each learned about yourself from the assault that you
survived, and the after-effects that you're still dealing with?
Mr. KLEIN: One thing that I've learned is that I was totally unaware of what
I was bringing home, and I was told in no uncertain terms by my wife and kids
that I've got to stay out of the high schools. I was unaware of the fact of
the--being intimidated and threatened on a daily basis took a toll that I was
unaware of. So I've learned my limitations.
I've also learned that I gave this my best shot. I was in school everyday an
hour early, I had my classes planned. I really tried, and I have a good, I
think, solid record for the 18 years I've been in school. I've had very few
absences. I've always--I have strong recommendations. It didn't matter. It
simply didn't matter. These kids took a resource and threw it out the window.
GROSS: Frank, how do you think you were changed by the experience and the
Mr. BURD: I heard Ed say he learned his limitations. Sadly, I have not.
What I have learned actually came after from being in the hospital, from
walking in stores, walking on the streets, being in a car, people hollering
out the windows, kind things, telling me things. But the letters I've gotten
from former students that I don't remember and that I do. I've got letters
from people in the '70s that I taught at Germantown, and in the '80s that I
taught at Parkway. I got people stopping me and telling me stories that they
remember when I was teaching. Because I still lived in the neighborhood near
Telling me things that they remember that I did, and how I was always, you
know, this kind of teacher, and people who are telling me that because of me
they learned math. I had no clue about this. You know, you don't get the
feedback the way--there's no financial reward. You don't get a bonus because
somebody 20 years later is a teacher. It's very rewarding to be told you're
remembered and you had an influence on somebody. And it's been one of the
most healing things in terms of my recovery from this physical injury to know
I had an impact on people. Because that's what you go into it hoping for, but
you never really know it unless something horrible happens. I don't know how
to put that.
GROSS: Well, I want to thank you both very much, and I wish you both good
luck in the future, and a good recovery from the injuries that you sustained.
Thank you both.
Mr. BURD: Thank you.
Mr. KLEIN: Thanks for this opportunity. I think it's important.
GROSS: Ed Klein was teaching at West Philadelphia High School when he was
attacked. Frank Burd was teaching at Germantown High School in Philadelphia
when he was assaulted.
Coming up, rock critic Ken Tucker reviews the album that's number one on the
Billboard 200. This is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Review: Ken Tucker reviews Toby Keith's "Big Dog Daddy"
TERRY GROSS, host:
For a lot of people, country star Toby Keith is known primarily as `the guy
who has a 2002 hit courtesy of the red, white and blue,' and who feuded with
the Dixie Chicks over their comments about President Bush, displaying at his
concerts a doctored photo of Dixie Chick Natalie Maines alongside Saddam
Hussein. Keith has continued to be one of country music's most consistent hit
makers. His new album, "Big Dog Daddy," has been at the top of the country
and other top album charts since it debuted last week.
Rock critic Ken Tucker believes "Big Dog Daddy" may succeed in broadening Toby
(Soundbite of "Big Dog Daddy")
Unidentified Girls: (In unison) Hey, Daddy (Whistle)
Mr. TOBY KEITH: Oh, yeah
(Singing) Well, I'm a big dog daddy,
You know my face
And the joint starts rocking
When I walk in a place
Band starts thumping
Those rhythm guitars,
And the dance floor's jumping
To the back of the bar
Everybody looks better in a neon light
When a plan comes together on a Saturday night
Mr. KEN TUCKER: Toby Keith may be the big dog daddy of the title tune, and
you know that brash, braggy song is going to sound great in a tour date arena,
but this album, the first he's also produced himself, is also his most
intimate. And Keith has found a way of letting his sensitive side show
without wimping out. To some folks, Keith's image--the anti-Dixie Chick, the
truculent rabble-rouser--gets in the way of the music. Yet I don't know how
anyone could listen to the delicate, high, lonesome croon he applies to "I
Know She Hung the Moon," about a comfy-but-crackling romantic relationship,
and doubt the guy's artist sincerity or his musical ability.
(Soundbite of "I Know She Hung the Moon")
Mr. KEITH: (Singing) There's no need to apologize
This happens time and time again
As soon as somebody lays their eyes on her,
They dive right in
I watch you sneak a look
From the other side of the floor
And as I danced her by
I watch you steal one more
You don't have to tell me she's beautiful
You don't have to say things like `One of a kind'
You don't have to wonder if she loves me, man
I know that's crossed your mind
Seems like everywhere we go there's always
Somebody starin' at her
Yeah, I know she hung the moon
I'm the one that held the ladder
TUCKER: I like the way, when he's not in full bore macho man mode, Toby
Keith's larynx relaxes into an agreeable instrument. He actually phrases more
like a folk singer, with a conversational tone that makes you concentrate on
lyrics over instrumentation. Which is why one of the few songs he hasn't
written or co-written on this album is by a folky-like Fred Eaglesmith. He's
the author of "White Rose," a tiresome piece that moans about how they don't
make gas stations like they used to.
The other more troublesome non-Toby Keith tune here is Craig Wiseman's "Love
Me If You Can."
(Soundbite of "Love Me If You Can")
Mr. KEITH: (Singing) Sometimes I think that war is necessary
Every night I pray for peace on earth
And I hand out my dollars to the homeless
But believe that every able soul should work
My father gave me my shotgun
That I'll hand down to my son
Try to teach him everything it means
I'm a man of my convictions,
Call me wrong, call me right
But I bring my better angels to every fight
You may not like where I'm going,
But you sure know where I stand
Hate me if you want to,
Love me if you can
TUCKER: Wow. Now there's a synthesis for you: self-pitying
self-righteousness. Keith sings, "I hand out my dollars to the homeless, but
believe that every able soul should work." And you know what that's code for,
`Get them off the welfare rolls.' He talks about how we should, quote, "just
agree to disagree," and then pleads, "hate me if you want to, love me if you
can." This is also known as pandering to your base and preaching to the
I like Toby Keith more when he's talking about romance or sex.
(Soundbite of "Burnin' Moonlight")
Mr. KEITH: (Singing) The needle showed the gas was low,
And three dollars in my pocket
Her beauty got the best of me,
And she didn't try to stop it
On a dead end road nobody knows
A thing about but me
We'll park that old Ford pickup truck
Underneath that Cyprus tree
Turnin' midnight, burnin' moonlight
Yeah, I was up and running
My fingers through her hair
You could cut the passion with a knife
In that Southern midnight air
I kissed her sweet on that pickup seat
As my blue jeans hit the floor
Her body heat and my cold bare feet
Pressed up against the door
Turnin' midnight, burnin' moonlight
TUCKER: "Burnin' Moonlight," about a hot, monogamous relationship, suggests
that Toby Keith understands that, beyond his default modes of rowdiness and
belligerence, country music is the soundtrack for adulthood, its pleasures as
well as its disillusionment. Maybe next time around, he'll really grow up and
turn out a record that even a Dixie Chicks fan will have to admit is first
rate, because this one comes awful close.
GROSS: Ken Tucker is editor at large at Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed
"Big Dog Daddy" by Toby Keith.
You can download podcasts of our show by going on to our Web site,
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.