The lawyer for Luis Penzo, the 18-year-old high school student who beat up his principal two days ago, said he was acting out after his mother died last year from a brain aneurysm. Described by friends as “quiet” and someone who “keeps to himself,” Penzo pummeled Dr. Matthew Tossman, principal at Manhattan Early College School for Advertising where he’s enrolled, after he tried to remove the student’s headphones for playing music to loud in the hallway. Tossman suffered swelling and lacerations around both eyes after being repeatedly punched in the face.
In a letter to students Tuesday, Tossman said, “I am writing to thank you for the outpouring of support that I received from this community; your phone calls, emails, and kind words have lifted my spirits.” Currently recovering at home, the principal said he “will be back at school as soon as I am able.”
Manhattan Early College School for Advertising is one of four schools in the Murry Bergtraum High School building in lower Manhattan. Students there have complained about violence at the school, where they say fist fights occur frequently and a student was recently found to be in possession of a handgun.
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