File Photo – Gurnee Police Department | Photo: Village of Gurnee

A teacher at Woodland Middle School suffered a serious leg injury after he was attacked by a student, who threw him to the ground and punched him in the face.

The Gurnee Police Department and Gurnee Fire Department responded to the incident around 11 a.m. Tuesday at Woodland Middle School, 7000 West Washington Street in Gurnee.

Police said two seventh-grade students were involved in a physical fight during a passing period.

A teacher attempted to intervene and one of the students battered the teacher, who suffered a leg injury, police said.

The teacher was transported to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville for his injuries.

The other student sustained minor injuries and was treated at the school.

The teacher involved, Craig Spata, told Lake and McHenry County Scanner in an interview that he had just dismissed his class for passing period and entered the hallway to let them out.

After the students exited, he witnessed a student on the ground being punched in the head by another student.

Spata yelled for the student to stop but he failed to do so, leading to Spata grabbing the student by the shoulders and pulling him off the other student.

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The student turned on Spata and the two “tussled” before the student threw Spata to the ground.

Spata said he landed on his leg and the student then punched him in the face, knocking off his glasses.

Spata was able to restrain the student on the floor until other staff members came to his aid.

Doctors evaluated Spata and determined he suffered a Maisonneuve fracture, which is a double fracture in the ankle and below the knee.

An orthopedic surgeon determined Spata will need surgery to repair the injury.

Spata also suffered bruising on his shoulder, arm and elbow. He will be out of work at least through the summer.

It is unknown if the student was arrested but Spata said he is pressing charges.

Woodland Middle School Principal Tiffany Drake sent a letter to parents following the incident.

She said some seventh-grade students have “continued with the pursuit of engaging in dangerous behavior,” referencing both the Tuesday attack and a previous incident from last month where students planned a fight on social media to disrupt classes.

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“The Woodland District 50 Student-Parent Handbook states that students involved in fighting, planning to fight, encouraging others to fight, verbal altercations, or harassing another student are subject to disciplinary measures such as out-of-school suspensions, law enforcement referrals, expulsion, and or administrative transfer to an alternative school. When students are involved in such acts, we have been and will continue to follow the Student-Parent Handbook,” Drake said.

“Our student altercations this year are following a pattern of escalation after friends or acquaintances are unable to resolve continued disagreements. Please help us address this pattern by talking to your children about conflict resolution, and contacting us directly if you have information that could help our teams assist students in conflict resolution strategies,” she added.

Spata said the issues at the school have been an ongoing issue that he has brought to the administration’s attention several times.

The issues have gotten “significantly more serious” since the return to school following COVID, he said.

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“Protocols went away and it became sort of chaos. Discipline issues were not always handled correctly,” Spata said.

The school has hall monitors but Spata said they are not effective and the students do not take them seriously.

“I love my job and students, I would never think twice about getting involved,” Spata said, adding that he is not afraid to return to work once he recovers but that other staff members do feel unsafe.

Spata said he would like the school to hire private security and said they should not be asking staff members to place themselves in harm’s way.

Spata said he was told that the school will be upgrading its security camera system this summer.

In the letter to parents, Drake said the school has implemented new hallway traffic patterns during Explore passing periods so that there will be fewer students in the hallway.

Police officers will also be walking through the hallways during passing periods.