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High School Warns Parents of Student's Threat to Kill

June 03, 1998|NICK GREEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

CAMARILLO — Parents of Camarillo High School students will receive a letter in the mail today warning them about a student who has threatened to kill himself and his classmates.

The unidentified ninth-grade boy has been in custody since making the threat to police officers last week.

However, at least one worried parent pulled her daughter out of school Tuesday, citing a lack of information from school officials about the situation in the wake of last week's fatal shooting by a student at an Oregon high school.

Indeed, it is because of that shooting spree and other similar incidents nationwide that school district officials say they are taking the unusual step of mailing a letter that both warns and reassures parents.

"It is our understanding that the student indicated that he would kill himself and his classmates," said Gary Davis, an assistant superintendent at Oxnard Union High School District. "We don't feel this should be a panic situation--the student is in a secure lockup situation, a secure environment, he is not on campus. . . . But in light of what has happened throughout our nation, I'm sure any school would take all the possible precautions it can."

Precautions outlined in the letter include unspecified "additional steps to increase campus security."

The boy was taken into custody May 25 after police responded to his home because he was threatening suicide, said Cmdr. Craig Husband of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department in Camarillo. At the same time, the boy also made threats against students and staff at the high school.

"He didn't say he was going to go and shoot people. He lodged a serious threat and we took it as such and we are dealing with it as such."

In addition to a charge of making terrorist threats, the boy is under investigation for possession of a dangerous weapon, Husband said.

The weapon is not a firearm, and Husband said he did not believe the boy has experience with or access to guns.

Prosecutors expect to file charges today that would result in the boy's continued detention, said Miles Weiss, supervisor of the juvenile prosecution unit of the Ventura County district attorney's office. Without charges, he could be released as soon as 3 p.m. today, Weiss said.

It is up to a judge to decide whether the boy should be kept in custody after a combination arraignment and detention hearing that will be held Thursday if charges are filed as expected.

The boy, who is new to the area and attended Camarillo High School for only a few days last month, will not return to the school district, Davis said.

One parent, who asked not to be identified because she feared for the safety of her daughter, criticized the school district for being slow to release information about the incident.

"When I called the school they said the whole story was a rumor and they didn't know what I was talking about," she said.

"The parents I've talked to don't know what to do. We don't trust the school--the trust has been shaken. They should have let us know what happened immediately . . . but they denied what happened, and that's very troubling to a lot of parents."

Davis said staff and teachers were told of the incident Tuesday, but students were not informed.

"We felt it was not productive to do that, but we're doing everything we can to maintain a safe, secure campus," he said.

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