Hard questions remain over Žďár attack

Police on Wednesday formally charged a 26-year-old woman in a brutal knife attack at a high school in Žďár nad Sázavou this week which claimed the life of a 16-year-old boy, and left three people injured. The same day, the head of a psychiatric facility which had earlier released the suspect (a schizophrenic who had already once threatened children at knifepoint) resigned. The government is looking into the case, and the president himself weighed in, saying mental illness should not be treated with outpatient care. In Žďár nad Sázavou, meanwhile, classmates of the fallen boy returned to school.

High school in Žďár nad Sázavou, photo: CTKHigh school in Žďár nad Sázavou, photo: CTK Wednesday saw students return to classrooms at the high school where 16-year-old classmate Petr lost his life. In front of the school, many lit candles in his memory and inside, a memorial was also set up. Many children, parents, and teachers are still coming to terms with the tragedy and a day later regular classes had not resumed but instead were attended by police psychologists to help students cope. Jan Pokorný, one of the psychologists present, spoke to public broadcaster Czech TV:

“We are helping to explain [to the kids] what they are going through: that they may feel bad for days, that they may be unable to sleep or can have nightmares. That they may be scared to even enter the school.”

Officials at the Žďár high school have also said that teachers were providing as much assistance as possible. Stanislav Zedníček is the school’s vice principal:

The woman charged with murder and hostage taking at the Jihlava court, photo: CTKThe woman charged with murder and hostage taking at the Jihlava court, photo: CTK “Teachers have to do their job and help the students. But I think it will be a long time before things return to normal.”

Many are saying the 16-year-old, who died protecting a female student, should posthumously receive state honours – something President Miloš Zeman said was not possible later this month, but an option in a year’s time. At the home of the parents, the boy’s father, meanwhile, said this about his son:

“He acted on impulse: that’s the kind of boy he was. It was a heroic act but unfortunately it cost him his life. Nothing will bring him back.”

Hard questions are now being asked about what went wrong. Justice Minister Helena Válková showed she had serious doubts about the decision by a court in Opava which saw the mental patient released from institutional to outpatient care. Her impression? That the court had not been nearly thorough enough. In addition, the justice minister is also looking into the original decision by the previous court which saw the woman sent to a mental institution in the first place, after the woman broke into an elementary school in Havířov and stabbed an employee there. Justice Minister Helena Válková:

Helena Válková, photo: Filip JandourekHelena Válková, photo: Filip Jandourek “Why did the first court, in the case of such a dangerous patient – diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic – not opt for stricter terms of confinement?”

Some answers are expected by the end of November: the prime minister has tasked the justice, education and health ministers to investigate conditions in their respective sectors and to propose key changes to prevent a similar tragedy like the one in Žďár nad Sazavou from happening again.