Matt was a slightly built, 17-year-old honor student when he was jumped by thugs in a hallway at GW and beaten so brutally that he needed brain surgery.
The horror was not only that Matt went to school in the morning and was on an O.R. table by the end of the day, fighting for his life.
It was also that GW administrators were so dismissive about what happened to him that they neither summoned an ambulance after his assault nor reported the pummeling to police.
In the aftermath, GW and school district administrators were excoriated by state reps who had held hearings just 18 months before into violence in the city's public schools.
Those hearings had uncovered massive evidence of principals' underreporting of assaults in their buildings. Of bad-apple students being casually transferred to other schools rather than disciplined. Of the district taking a resigned, "whatcha gonna do?" attitude to violence perpetrated by messed-up kids against students and staff.
Among other things, the hearings resulted in legislation creating a Safe Schools Advocate, an independent, governor-appointed watchdog to whom parents and others could turn when their allegations of violence appeared to be ignored.
Although the advocate's office was never fully funded, its compassionate and relentless leaders - first Harvey Rice, then Jack Stollsteimer - still made an impact on the district, in the ways you'd expect.
Victims were grateful for representation by people who took them seriously. And obstinate administrators hated the blinding light of accountability the advocate flashed in their faces.
Nine years later, here's where we stand.
Matt Gremo, now 26, won a federal lawsuit against the district, alleging that his civil rights were violated. After rehab, he got a bachelor's degree and now works as a web-page designer.
The office of the Safe Schools Advocate, after doing heroic work on about 400 cases per year, was unceremoniously shut down last year, its earnest staff given the boot without notice.
The stated reason was budget cuts, but don't believe it. Stollsteimer was a thorn in the side of the district, publicly pointing out the continued underreporting of crimes and the lack of expulsion of violent students from schools they had no business attending.
As he notes, the district, run in partnership with Harrisburg, is essentially a state agency, overseen by the Department of Education. Bad press about either might prompt legislators to cut district funding, since it would appear that no one was doing the right things with that $3 billion budget anyway.
"Our office never should've answered to the Department of Education in the first place," said Stollsteimer yesterday, who now works for the state Treasury. "Any bad news we reported only led back to them. There was an inherent conflict."
Rep. John Taylor, who helped lead the hearings 10 years ago, concurred.
"The problem," he said, "has always been that district administration is too cozy with Harrisburg."
As for the current public hearings? We're right back where we were in 2001.
This time, the hearings aren't being conducted by legislators alarmed by constituents' reports of smackdowns and bullying.
Instead, the good people of the Commission on Human Relations are overseeing the community meetings - there have been eight since January - prompted by race-related attacks on Asian students at South Philly High School.
At this week's get-together at the Samuel Rec Center, chairwoman Kay Kyungsun Yu said the commission's goal is to create a report with recommendations to be submitted to the school district.
Given the effort of the commission - 100 participants have testified at the hearings so far - I imagine the report will be pretty thoughtful.
I also imagine that, without a Safe Schools Advocate to hold the district accountable for taking the recommendations seriously, it will end up in a drawer somewhere, gathering dust. Until the next child is attacked, simply for looking like an easy mark.
And the hearings will begin again.
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