Tuesday, September 19, 2000

14-year-old fires gun in classroom

No one hurt at Mt. Healthy school

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP — Hours after a 14-year-old junior high school student fired a single shot into a school ceiling Monday at Mount Healthy North Junior High, parents demanded answers from school administrators and police.

        “I don't feel any more reassured. I feel just as apprehensive as I did when I first heard about this,” said Michelle Bonham of Springfield Township, who has a daugh ter in eighth grade at the school. “What's to prevent something like this from happening again?”

        More than 150 parents turned out for an informal meeting Monday evening inside the middle school at 2170 Struble Road. School staff called the meeting to provide answers and reas surance.

        About 10:30 a.m. Monday, an eighth-grade boy armed with a .380 caliber semiautomatic handgun fired a bullet into the ceiling of his second-floor math class. He ordered the 15 other students in the class out of the room. The Enquirer is not publishing the boy's name because he is a juvenile.

        Police would not discuss a motive, saying only that the teen planned his actions and did not intend to hurt any other students.

        He took the gun from relatives, who were unaware that it was missing, officials said.

        Shortly after the gun was fired, teachers evacuated the second floor of the building and then the first floor, gathering the more than 300 students on the school's football field, officials said.

        The boy asked to speak with Springfield Township Police Officer Michael Webb, who works part-time at the school.

        Officer Webb, who was at another middle school in the district, has worked with the boy in the past, officials said.

        Springfield Township Police Chief David Heimpold said police have had prior contact with the boy, but declined to provide specifics.

        Officer Webb said the boy was visibly distraught during their 25-minute discussion.

        “I told him he didn't want to take this any further. He was frustrated with situations in his life — his family,” the officer said. “He eventually put the gun on a desk and walked away from it and put his hands behind his head.”

        The teen has been charged with carrying a concealed weapon, discharging a firearm in school, abduction, theft, felonious assault and inducing panic.

        He is being held in the Hamilton County Juvenile Detention Facility.

        Administrators said there will be school today and crisis counselors will be on hand.

        “The staff responded wonderfully and the students did an excellent job of walking out of the building quickly. They were well behaved and followed instruction,” Principal Eugene Blalock said Monday night.

        Parents gave administra tors and police a standing ovation at Monday's meeting, but many expressed frustration and fear at the idea that a weapon made it onto school grounds.

        Mount Healthy City Schools Assistant Superintendent Randy Parsons said the problem was “societal” and that parents, teachers and law enforcement have to work together to maintain school safety.

        Nevertheless Dawn Drayton of Springfield Township, who has a seventh-grader at the school, was still worried.

        “What's it going to take? We see this every day. I can't go through this again,” she said. “I can't afford to put my son in a private school. Something has to be done.”

        Both parents and administrators agreed to discuss the possibility of metal detectors in the school and the establishment of a formal dress code that could incorporate uniforms.

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