Wednesday, September 20, 2000

Students talk out concerns over shot




By Tom O'Neill and Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SPRINGFIELD TWP. — Despite the presence of counselors and the undercurrent of home room discussions about a single shot fired, Tuesday was — in many respects — a fairly normal day at Mount Healthy North Middle School.

        Some students expressed concern for — but not fear of — the distraught eighth-grader who on Monday fired a gun into the ceiling of a second-story classroom, prompting the evacuation of 300 students.

[photo] Principal Eugene Blalock says his objective is to talk over Monday's gun incident, then move on.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
        The boy, who is not being identified because of his age, is the brother of a 17-year-old Finneytown boy recently charged with aiding in the kidnapping and fatal shooting of a University of Cincinnati student, authorities said. If convicted in adult court, the brother faces 40 years to life in prison.

        “I heard he just wanted to talk to his brother,” one female student said outside Mount Healthy North.

        Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen said such mitigating factors aren't relevant in how the boy's case is prosecuted. “It's mainly based on the severity of the offense,” he said, “and this is something that just can't be tolerated.”

        The 14-year-old boy is charged as a juvenile with carrying a concealed weap on, discharging a firearm in school, abduction, theft, felonious assault and inducing panic, and was being held in the Hamilton County Juvenile Detention Center. He made his first appearance in juvenile court Tuesday, and a hearing will be held next week to determine if his case will be bound over to adult court.

        At the school Tuesday morning, Principal Eugene Blalock said the objective was to deal with the issue head-on, then move on.

        “The first thing was to give students a chance to talk about what happened and what their feelings were,” Mr. Blalock said.

        Teachers led home room discussions about the incident, and school-district counselors were available throughout the day and will be at the school again today.

        For many students, their concerns weren't solely about the shooting itself, but about coverage of it, particularly TV news camera crews who followed students off school buses Monday afternoon.

        “It was the media, the cameras,” Mr. Blalock said. “They didn't really know how to deal with that.”

        He said any school-safety policy changes would be up to the school board, adding: “We were fortunate, but we'll re-evaluate how we did.”

        He credited the staff for its calm handling of the situation; the students who followed their direction; and Springfield Township Police Officer Michael Webb, who works part-time at the school.

        The boy asked for Officer Webb after the shooting, and put the gun down after a 25-minute discussion. Mr. Blalock said he hoped to retain the grant funding that pays for the officer.

        School resource officers are new to some suburban districts.

        Mount Healthy Police Chief Al Schaefer said the department this school year just began having a school resource officer — Officer Mike Neal — working at Mount Healthy High School.

        Colerain Township police will also have a school resource officer begin work at Colerain High School next month for the first time.

        “He's not only a disciplinarian, but he's there to help them; and he does help,” Chief Schaefer said of school resource officers. “He's there not only for the students, but for the staff and administrators. That's their job, that's what they do.”

        Chief Schaefer said the officer's only responsibilities are at the school.

        “That's his duties,” said Chief Schaefer. “He's there Monday through Friday.”

- Students talk out concerns over shot
You have to stop the little things to end school violence, expert says
       



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