School administrators work to halt rumors of violent incident Parents voice fears

alleged assault was at home of Liberty High student

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 suspected violent incident this week that involved 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. Clark said he could provide no details of the incident because it was a police matter involving a juvenile.

Parents said they were entitled to more information. They say they're concerned for their children's safety because of recent incidents of school-related shootings. 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 in Eldersburg 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."

Capt. Greg M. Shipley, a state police spokesman, said last night that on Tuesday police arrested a 14-year-old Eldersburg boy on charges of assaulting another juvenile by allegedly pointing rifle at him at the suspect's home.

Shipley said both are students at Liberty.

He said the suspect appeared before a juvenile court master and was being held pending a hearing.

Shipley said the boy was being held at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Baltimore County. A formal petition will be filed next week charging the teen with assault, he said. The investigation "is ongoing, and additional arrests may be forthcoming," he 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 speculation about 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 prevented him from discussing specifics because the incident involved the police and a juvenile. He refused to say whether the student has been expelled or suspended over the incident.

"I've talked to a good many parents, and I've tried to assure them that we have procedures in place that deal very strictly with any student who we believe poses a threat," Dunkleberger said.

"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 that if a student was involved in a violent act outside 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.

"We are very concerned and very committed to ensuring that all our schools in Carroll County are safe every day of the year."

Kathy Horneman, a community activist in South Carroll, said she thought school officials and police should give parents and XTC residents more details about violent incidents involving students.

She compared the lack of information concerning the Liberty High situation to the detailed reports about the arrest Wednesday of a 15-year-old student at Hereford Middle School for carrying a semiautomatic handgun in school.

Police and Baltimore County school officials said the student was suspended immediately and taken to the Hickey school.

"My only concern as a parent is that as a community we have to be made aware of kids who decide to unload their anger," Horneman said. "How can we attack a problem, if we don't know about it?"

Pub Date: 5/29/98

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