A North Canton fourth-grader was standing at her teacher's desk at the front of the room Monday morning when a softball-size rock crashed through the back window, sailed over the heads of her seated classmates and struck her above the right eyebrow and fractured her skull.
The rock didn't knock her off her feet and she didn't lose consciousness, but the girl was taken to Akron Children's Hospital and was scheduled for surgery Tuesday morning to correct her dented skull.
''She was very courageous,'' said North Canton superintendent Mike Gallina. ''I was actually able to visit her [Monday] evening. She was in good spirits.''
No one else was injured in the class, which includes third-graders and fourth-graders. They were just shocked at the freak accident, which occurred about 9:10 a.m.
''It's probably the most unusual set of circumstances you'll ever hear,'' Gallina said.
A maintenance worker was mowing the outfield of the baseball diamond adjoining Greentown Elementary School and somehow the mower caught the rock at just the right angle to launch it toward the school.
The rock hit a wall that was perpendicular to the back window of the classroom. The rock ricocheted off the wall and crashed through the window. No students were injured from the crumbled glass, which is designed to collapse into a pile of rubble rather than break into shards.
The window is about 15 to 20 feet away from the front of the class where the teacher's desk sits off to the left. The girl was standing at the desk while the class worked on a project.
''The bleeding was pretty substantial, so they sat her down and calmed her,'' Gallina said. ''Our school nurse was in the building at the time and made good first contact.''
Medics transported the girl by ambulance to Children's around 9:30 a.m.
The children were moved to another classroom while workers removed the broken glass and boarded up the window, but were able to return to their room before the end of the day.
Gallina visited her in her hospital room Monday night.
North Canton had already had their trick or treat on Sunday, but she had Halloween visitors in her room.
''They actually brought trick or treat to all of the kids at Children's,'' Gallina said. ''They had employees dressed up, bringing candy into the rooms as opposed to the kids having to go door to door. So she had a wonderful bag of candy there last night and was taking good care of that, answering the phone, chatting with people as they were calling in and out.''
School officials are still trying to figure out what happened.
They determined that the lawn mower was functioning correctly and the operator followed the correct procedures.
''We'll talk about that, but at the same time I know that there are certain things you can control and certain things that you can't when you're trying to do your maintenance work,'' Gallina said. ''Boy, this one was the freakiest thing.''
The rock bent the blade, but not the guard, which is supposed to spit out debris horizontally in one direction.
Officials don't know how the mower was able to strike the rock at just at the right angle to shoot it toward the school.
''The guard worked. It did everything it was supposed to do,'' Gallina said. ''It doesn't always perfectly control elevation as we learned.''
The mower hit the rock some 85 feet away from the window.
''That's what makes this story so bizarre, all these angles and things happening just perfectly,'' Gallina said.
STORY UPDATE: Superintendent Mike Gallina just phoned to tell me that the surgery for the injured fourth grader went well and she was discharged from the hospital Tuesday evening. Word is that she's resting comfortably at home.
John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the education blog at http://education.ohio.com/.