Originally created 09/26/96

Slain teacher honored with highest award



A teacher who was shot and killed by a suspended ninthgrade student last year at Blackville-Hilda High School was posthumously awarded the state's highest civilian award by Gov. David Beasley on Wednesday.

David Flannery, son of Phyllis Senn, accepted the Order of the Palmetto on his mother's behalf in the governor's office, a spokesman said.

"(The Order of the Palmetto) is the highest award a citizen in this state can receive and Mrs. Senn, in her line of duty, truly gave her life while serving the citizens of this state," said Robyn Zimmerman of the governor's office. "And that's the ultimate sacrifice for any citizen."

The award is given solely at the discretion of the governor. Candidates for the award can be nominated by anyone.

In this case, it was members of Richland County Emergency Medical Services, where Mr. Flannery is employed as an emergency medical technician, who nominated Mrs. Senn.

"We pursued the possibility of Mrs. Senn being awarded the Palmetto because she ultimately gave her life for the benefit of the children of South Carolina and Blackville-Hilda High School," said George Rice, Richland County EMS public information officer.

Mr. Flannery did not return two messages left at his office and the governor's office.

Mrs. Senn was killed the morning of Oct. 12 by 16-year-old Toby Sincino, a ninth-grader on suspension for making an obscene gesture on a school bus. He entered the school and shot her point blank with a .32-caliber handgun. Before shooting Mrs. Senn, Toby shot band instructor Johnny Thompson in the face.

Mr. Thompson eventually recovered from his injuries.

After killing Mrs. Senn, Toby walked down the hallway and shot himself in the head in front of the principal's office.

Family members and colleagues of Mrs. Senn said she was dedicated to reaching out to problem students. The Blackville school system has started a scholarship fund named the Phyllis Senn Memorial Foundation to honor her dedication.