School troubled by rumors of violence

Three pupils charged, parents are fearful at Stricker Middle

Building security questioned

October 03, 2001|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

Yesterday, as a few fearful parents pulled their children out of General John Stricker Middle School in Dundalk, three 13-year-old pupils were charged with threatening to kill their classmates.

The boys were charged with three misdemeanors each - disruption of school operations, conspiracy and second-degree assault, not for physically attacking anyone but for striking fear into people, said Bill Toohey, a spokesman for Baltimore County police.

The boys' homes had been searched last week for weapons after pupils reported the threats. At one home, where the parents kept a gun, the weapon was voluntarily removed. No other weapons were found. Police did find threatening writings on a computer at one of the homes.

"The investigation has turned up no way to carry out any threat. No guns. No knives. No explosive devices," Toohey said.

All three boys have been suspended from the school on Trappe Road, parents said, though school system officials would not confirm the punishment.

Principal Deborah S. Klaus did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Meanwhile, a rumored second set of threats circulated through the school yesterday - this one including a so-called "hit list" on a piece of paper that said two pupils, their friends and the "popular kids" would be "shot" today, according to Gaye Welsh, whose daughter Christina is an eighth-grader. Police said they hadn't heard about that.

"The school has no security whatsoever," said Welsh, who lives across the street from Stricker Middle. "They can't begin to say these boys can't get into the school." As she spoke yesterday morning, she said she could see a line of parents picking their kids up early. A half-dozen concerned parents congregated at her house.

She pulled her daughter out at noon, though her real goal, she said, was to get better security at the school, which has about 930 pupils. "What am I going to do? Keep her out a month?" she asked.

"I'm not letting her go back to school until I know it is safe," said Vincent Salvage, father of another eighth-grade girl.

Sharon Norman, a school system spokeswoman, assured the parents there is nothing to worry about.

"I think that Baltimore County Public Schools has an excellent safety track record," she said. "What is different today that was not in place a week ago?"

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