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Do Student Tattlers Need Immunity?

March 17, 2001

Is it realistic to expect a student to come forward when a schoolmate threatens to commit violence? Some felt that the friends of the accused shooter in Santana High School in Santee should have reported his threats to authorities. They were transferred to another school after the incident for their protection, authorities said.

Assemblyman George Runner Jr. (R-Lancaster) is proposing a bill to grant immunity to student whistle-blowers. He was motivated by the Santee case and a case in his district, where a boy arrested for making terrorist threats at an Antelope Valley high school later sued the girl who told authorities of his threat. The defamation suit was dismissed, but the girl's family was left with $40,000 in legal expenses.

SAMANTHA MacLAREN spoke with students, including the Lancaster girl who was sued for reporting threats, about the measure.



17, junior, Desert Winds High School, Lancaster

Ithink Assemblyman Runner's bill is great. What I went through was a bunch of hooey and something like this would have helped.

There will still be shootings but I think there will be fewer of them if this bill is passed. I know I did the right thing by telling and I would do it again. My friends have been supportive of me. I did not receive any threats for coming forward.

Even if it was a friend who was making threats, I still would have come forward. I no longer go to Quartz Hill High School because I fell behind in my credits due to absenteeism when this happened; I now go to a continuation school.

The shooting in Santee brought back memories about what happened to me and what happened in Columbine. The whole incident has brought a lot of strain and stress to my family. People can be vindictive and some may use Runner's bill, if it becomes a law, to turn in people who have done nothing wrong.

I think a lot of students bring weapons to school--in some cases because they are scared of violence and want protection. There should be a greater police presence on school campuses.

When I turned the two boys in I wasn't sure if they were joking. I felt it was better to be safe than sorry. My mom and dad taught me to tell the truth. I came forward because I couldn't just let this slide. I feared their threats could lead to something big, something like Columbine.

I really can't say if the boys I turned in were sufficiently punished. But if the judge thought it was enough, then I guess it was.



Sophomore, Palmdale High School

Idon't feel good about the recent shootings because it's happening a lot--like there have been about half a dozen incidents in schools across the country just since Santee.

You don't know where the next one is going to be, and that's what makes it scary.

The San Diego boy's friends heard him say things and they thought he was joking. If you say something like that--even jokingly--people will take you seriously. So you can't joke any longer because now they will come and get you.

If one of my good friends said something I think I would know if he was joking and I wouldn't report him to anyone. But if it was someone I didn't know and they sounded serious, I would probably tell someone.

I feel pretty safe at my high school because we have a lot of security guards. We haven't had anything that bad happen at my school. I do think more students are carrying weapons because of gangs--not because of shootings at school.

Eveyone needs to be more cautious. Overcrowding at school is dangerous because there are way too many kids for the teachers to keep track of. They can't be one on one with students. During our overcrowded lunch periods, there are so many large groups it would be hard for security to see if any students had weapons. It probably would help if we had two lunch periods.

To improve security at school we should have metal detectors when you enter the building.

I think Assemblyman Runner's bill could be bad because people would use it to get someone in trouble. Then again, people shouldn't be allowed to sue you for turning them in.

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