Fort Wayne mom says knife situation at elementary school was more serious than depicted in letter sent home to parents

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Lincoln Elementary Principal J.R. Ankenbruck is praising students and staff for reacting quickly when a student removed a knife from their backpack and showed nearby students. However, one parent said her kids’ firsthand account of the situation does not line up with a letter the school sent to parents.

Chantel Bennett said she first got an automated message from Lincoln Elementary School shortly before 11 a.m., where the school informed parents a student was found with a knife. She said it was very similar to a letter sent home to families Wednesday.

In the letter sent to WANE 15 by Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS), Ankenbruck said that just before 8 a.m., a student removed the knife and showed it to students. Teachers were notified of the incident and found the student. The knife was then confiscated.

“I appreciate the quick reaction of students and staff in addressing this situation. I take any threat to student and staff safety seriously, and we will follow the FWCS Code of Conduct in addressing this situation,” the letter said.

Ankenbruck asked that parents thank their child on his behalf if they were involved and reported it to a staff member. Parents were also asked to talk to their child and remind them that if they see or hear anything that makes them feel unsafe or uncomfortable to immediately report it to an adult.

At the time, Bennett said she was not too concerned about the situation. However, shortly after noon, Bennett received a second call from the school, this time informing her that her children had been directly involved in the incident.

“He said that they saw the knife incident and that they were very brave and very courageous, and they did what was right, they got the teachers,” Bennett said. “He said that when he watched the cameras, he saw the knife at the boy’s side, and then he went on to say about how proud he was the kids did great.”

According to Bennett, she was concerned because her son, Wyatt, 10, has had trouble with being bullied in the past and she wondered if this was related. However, she learned there may be more to the story once her kids got home.

“As soon as they got home, my kids, they just they completely shattered,” Bennett said. “They started sobbing, they ran to me. The first things out of his mouth were ‘I thought I was gonna die when he had that knife on my neck,’ and I just completely lost it. I wasn’t mentally prepared for my child to say that. This principal didn’t warn me or anything.”

Bennett’s children told her that her daughter, Juliet, 9, had seen a student with a knife. She told a teacher and Juliet said the teacher did not believe her. According to the kids, the student with the knife then tried confronting Juliet and her friends.

That’s when Wyatt said he got in between his sister and the student with a knife.

“He told Juliet and all her friends to get behind him and stay behind him and the kid started poking him with the tip of the knife in the arm,” Bennett said. “He said that he threw his arm up like this because he was going to get him in the chest and he said he was poking him with his or poking him in the arm. He had a hoodie on and I don’t think the kid was doing it very hard because there’s no holes in his hoodie or anything like that. There’s no marks on his arm.”

That is when Wyatt said the student held the knife to his neck. Juliet told Bennett that was when she got another teacher, who intervened. Although her kids were not physically hurt in the situation, she said it has affected their mental health.

“[Wyatt]’s traumatized,” said Bennett. “He’s gonna, I’m gonna get him some therapy. Juliet, she seems okay. She’s nine. She doesn’t seem to fully understand the extent other than, hey, that was scary but Wyatt saved me, that’s her mindset.”

Bennett posted her children’s account of what happened in a Facebook group for Fort Wayne Community Schools parents and said she received nothing but support.

“There are several other moms that said that their kids witnessed everything that happened,” Bennett said. “The one little girl who is in the wheelchair, she told her mom that there was a boy that had a knife held to [Wyatt’s] neck and he was trying to save her. I’ve gotten nothing but support and a lot of people telling me, you know, tell him thank you. Tell him we’re proud of him for what he did and he’s so brave.”

It is unclear what grade the student was in or why they brought the knife to the school. Bennett said she does not plan on letting her kids return to Lincoln Elementary and plans to homeschool them for the time being. Still — she hopes the school address the incident in depth.

“I think that they need to probably have more training on how to handle situations like this,” Bennett said. “If a kid comes up to you and says, hey, there’s a knife or, hey, there’s a weapon.”

The school asked any parents with questions to contact the school office.

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