A Chester County high school has taken disciplinary action against a student who allegedly threw a punch during school on Wednesday that knocked another student out, school officials said Friday.
Great Valley High School Principal Michael Flick said he could not specify what action was taken against the student, but that he was disciplined for throwing the punch.
Flick said the incident began as "friendly horseplay" among a group of three students including the victim, 17-year-old Selvin Cartagena, while they were changing for gym class in a locker room at the Malvern school about 7:50 a.m. on Wednesday, before the school's first period.
The principal said the school's preliminary investigation into the incident revealed that the friendly play escalated to an altercation when one of the boys' headphones were broken.
That's when the punch that knocked Cartagena out was thrown, officials said. The third boy there, who witnessed the punch, was Cartagena's cousin, relatives said.
Flick said a gym teacher was doing a routine check of the locker room when he saw Cartagena on the ground, his friends attempting to fan him to wake him. He said the teacher called him, and they assessed the situation and called 9-1-1.
Cartagena's mother said her son fell unconscious after the assault and could not be woken. He was taken to Paoli Hospital and placed on a ventilator.
The mother told Telemundo62 that her son, who speaks little English, came to the U.S. from Guatemala last year in search of a better life.
"My son came from my country to have a better life and there is no security for him here," the mother, María Teresa Cartagena, said, adding that her son is not the type to get into fights.
"It's not justified," she said of what happened to the boy.
The teen remained in the coma until Thursday afternoon when he was able to open his eyes and talk some. It's not clear if he suffered permanent brain damage.
Flick said he could not confirm that the punch did indeed cause the boy to slip into a brief coma, but said that he and other school personnel have been supporting Cartagena's family since the incident.
"I've been there four times to visit with the family," Flick said. "My assistant principal was there, and one of me English as a second language teachers was there."
He said the school community has rallied behind the boy and already donated nearly $500 to his mother. A collection for the family was still running at the school on Friday.
The principal said this kind of incident is extremely rare at the 1,200-student school. "We're a pretty high achieving school district," he said.
He said the full investigation into what happened is ongoing and that the school is cooperating with police.
East Whiteland Police confirmed they responded to the fight and are investigating. Cartagena's family said detectives were waiting for Selvin to wake up from the coma so they could speak with him about what happened.
Police would not say whether charges could be filed.