How Minneapolis Public Schools is responding to teacher assault at Harrison Education Center

The superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools is responding to the attack on a staff member at an alternative school earlier this week. 

Superintendent Ed Graff could not get into specifics about the student, who is now charged with assault, but talked about how Harrison Education Center works and the challenges of the students they serve. 

On Tuesday, a school resource officer saw 18-year-old Corey Burfield walk up to Mohammed Dukuly, a teaching assistant at Harrison, and knock him to the ground then punch him multiple times in the head and neck, according to the charges. Burfield had to be “forcibly removed” from Dukuly, who became unresponsive. 

In addition to multiple witnesses, surveillance cameras also captured the attack. According to the charges, the video shows Burfield first tried to grab Dukuly's belt, which is where Dukuly keeps his building keys and campus radio. When Dukuly attempted to push Burfield away, the teen grabbed Dukuly by the shirt, pushed him against a wall and to the floor and started punching.

Graff said Harrison is the most restrictive setting the district has to serve students with emotional and behavioral problems. The students at Harrison often have unstable, if not chaotic, home lives. 

The supervision and programming varies by each student and how long students stay at Harrison varies as well, because the district hopes to return them to regular schools. 

There are 40-45 teachers and staff at Harrison. On any given day, the student body ranges from 30-35 students so the staffing level is often a one-to-one ratio. 

Staff at the school are trained in crisis prevention and de-escalation strategies, according to Graff. 

"[We're] really looking at how we can help a student de-escalate from a situation," he said. "We work with our students individually on how they can better regulate and manage their reactions to situations."

Graff said he has been meeting with staff at Harrison to debrief on what occurred on Tuesday. He said he is also communicating with parents and offering students space to have one-on-one or group conversations with support staff and leaders to process their feelings regarding the incident. 

The district is continuing to investigate what led up to the attack, Graff said. 

Dukuly remains in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center. His family told Fox 9 on Thursday that he is making significant improvements like sitting up, talking and reciting answers to personal questions like his birthday. But Dukuly cannot remember what happened in the school hallway.

Burfield is charged with first and third degree assault. He made his first court appearance on Thursday afternoon, where the judge released him from jail. He will be confined to his home with an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet.