Rumor of violence at high school stirs debate Principal in Carroll sends letter, but parents want more

May 29, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.

Carroll County school officials scrambled yesterday to quash rumors about a violent incident this week involving a Liberty High School student. But some parents are unhappy with steps taken by school administrators to address the matter.

Liberty High Principal Randy Clark sent a letter yesterday to parents, students and staff to address "a recent matter in our community" and to alleviate growing concerns. However, Clark stated he could provide no details of the incident because it is a police matter involving a juvenile.

Parents maintain they are entitled to more information. They say they're particularly concerned for their children's safety because recent incidents of fatal school-related shootings across the country. Last week, a Springfield, Ore., teen-ager opened fire in a school lunchroom, killing two and wounding 24 others.

Throughout the week, parents and students at Liberty High said they have heard rumors about a violent occurrence at or near the school.

"This makes me very nervous," said a parent whose son attends Liberty High and who asked not to be named. "I think as parents we should be made aware of what happened. I don't want to send my kid to a school if this is starting to come to our neighborhood."

Maryland State Police Sgt. David Warner confirmed that state police handled a matter on Tuesday involving a Liberty High School student, but he said he could not provide details because the individual involved is a juvenile.

"I don't have anything to release about that incident," Warner said.

In his letter, Clark wrote, "we do wish to emphasize that this incident did not take place on school property and did not involve the possession of any weapons at school.

"Recent events portrayed in the national media concerning school violence have created heightened concerns for the safety and welfare of students and staff. We are sensitive to these concerns and have every expectation that the safe and orderly ** school environment that we enjoy at Liberty High School will continue."

Clark said he decided to send a letter because of growing speculation surrounding the incident.

"Rumors were flying and I decided to address the issue so students, staff and parents could have fears eased," he said.

Gary Dunkleberger, assistant superintendent of instruction, said he is sympathetic to parents' concerns. However, he said state law prevents him from discussing specifics of the incident because it involves the police and a juvenile. He refused to say whether the student has been expelled.

fTC Dunkleberger said all the rumors he heard -- from a student coming to school with a bomb strapped to his body to one who was carrying guns -- were inaccurate.

"Had a student brought a weapon to school -- and none was brought to school -- we would deal with that very directly and that student would not be in school," he said.

He said that if a student was involved in a violent act outside of school, police are required to inform school officials.

"If a student held up a 7-Eleven we'd look at the situation and determine whether it was appropriate for the student to return to school, and the conclusion would be no," Dunkleberger said.

Pub Date: 5/29/98

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