Quote of the day
"We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bellyful of words and do not know a thing. "
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Oxnard Shooting Sparks Call For Changes
By Catherine Saillant, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 20, 2008
Hundreds of parents filled an Oxnard gymnasium Tuesday night to ask hard questions about why school officials didn't intervene more aggressively in an escalating feud between two students, which ended last week with the shooting death of 15-year-old student Lawrence King.
In orderly fashion, one parent after another asked for metal detectors on campus, more programs dealing with bullying and for stricter enforcement of the district's uniform policy.
"There were probably weeks of this student being subjected to harassment," said Joe Gonzales, parent of a student at E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, where King was killed Feb. 12. "We need to know what was done, or not done, so we can prevent something like this from happening again instead of reacting to it."
Details about events the days before the shooting also trickled out as a panel that included school officials, mental health counselors and Oxnard Police Chief John Crombach responded to questions.
One parent said her daughter told her that several students exchanged text messages the day before the shooting that talked about what the suspect planned to do.
Crombach acknowledged that several students told police they heard about "comments, statements and threats" that were made but that they didn't take the chatter seriously and that there was no evidence that it was reported to school officials.
The police chief said the alleged shooter, Brian McInerney, 14, has refused to talk to investigators so it is unclear why King was shot.
His actions that morning, however, made it clear he planned an attack, Crombach said. The classroom teacher had little time to react, he said.
"It's pretty clear our suspect was focused on his victim and what he planned to do," the chief said. He later said that the suspect apparently got the small-caliber handgun from his home.
Crombach and school officials told parents that they are reviewing safety procedures and considering installing metal detectors.
A school assembly is planned next month to talk to students about bullying and what they should do if they see it on campus.
The killing last week has sparked anguish not only in Oxnard but across the nation as worried parents and gay rights advocates ask whether school officials should respond more aggressively to schoolyard bullying.
King's classmates said he had proclaimed himself gay in recent weeks and began wearing feminine accessories with his school uniform.
The boy endured frequent taunting but appeared to be holding his own, students said, refusing to change his appearance.
Prosecutors have charged McInerney with premeditated murder and added an allegation that it was a hate crime. Witnesses said McInerney pulled out a handgun in class and shot King in the head before fleeing.
He was apprehended by police a few blocks away from the school, and is being held in Juvenile Hall. Prosecutors are trying him as an adult.
On Saturday, 1,000 students marched through downtown Oxnard to plea for peace and tolerance on their school campuses.
At least a dozen candlelight vigils and memorials are scheduled this week for King, including events in San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento and Ukiah, Calif., and in Massachusetts, New York and South Carolina.
A memorial service for King is scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday at Westminster Presbyterian Church of Hueneme, 755 Bard Road in Port Hueneme. King's family said they scheduled an after-school time so that students may attend.
A private burial will also be held Friday, according to Camino del Sol Memorial Center and Funeral Home in Oxnard, which is handling the arrangements.
Times staff writer Gregory W. Griggs contributed to this report