4 L.B. Students Face Expulsion in School Fight, Stabbing

Times Staff Writer

Four Millikan High School students face possible expulsion after an on-campus fight in which a student was stabbed and two teachers and two administrators assaulted.

A 16-year-old was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon in the incident, and a 17-year-old, who had to have 50 stitches in his head and neck for stab wounds, was arrested on suspicion of battery.

Since the school district's discipline code was toughened six years ago, students who carry or use weapons on campus or at school activities have been expelled as a matter of course. School officials say the youths involved in Friday's stabbing will probably be treated in the same way.

While administrators said the Jan. 18 fight was an "isolated incident," they have increased the Millikan security staff from three to four at the 2,600-student campus until "the situation is satisfactorily resolved," said Principal Joseph McCleary.

Although campus crimes and physical assaults against teachers and students in the district have declined in the past two years, the stabbing at Millikan was the second security problem there--and the third at Long Beach high schools--in a week.

Handgun Confiscated

A small-caliber handgun was confiscated from a student at Millikan on Jan. 11. On the same day, a scuffle between two Wilson High School students left one with minor stab wounds from a compass. All three students have been suspended, awaiting an expulsion hearing.

District spokesman Richard Van Der Laan said such incidents of violence in city schools are rare, and "those involving injury you can count on a few fingers of one hand."

Don Goddard, president of the Teachers Assn. of Long Beach, said Tuesday that teachers at Millikan are worried nonetheless: "It just seems that on that campus we (the teachers union) have been hearing more and more concerns about discipline" and about students wandering the campus between classes and strangers having easy access.

McCleary declined to discuss security at his campus but said, "Kids always have disputes on a high school campus. This was a little more extreme."

Millikan students had mixed reactions to the incident. Senior Penny Scott, 17, said, "I've been here three years, and this is the first incident (of violence) that's occurred" that she knows of.

Krista Williams, a 17-year-old senior, said she was concerned about campus safety. She once was verbally abused and threatened by an unidentified student only a few feet from the school office, she said.

Mel Miranda, 15, a 10th-grader in a magnet program in which he takes classes at Poly High in the morning and at Millikan in the afternoon, said he was once robbed of spare change at Millikan and: "I feel a lot safer at Poly."

The stabbing incident has been described as two separate fights that broke out in a hallway at about 10 a.m. after the school's morning nutrition break.

"Several teachers and some students attempted to separate the combatants and restore order," McCleary said in a written statement for students and the news media. "Two teachers were injured. In the course of attempting to move the students to the office, the fight re-erupted.

"Other members of the school staff were injured, as well as one of the students, who was taken to the hospital," he said. "(The) latest report indicates that the injuries appear not to be critical."

According to a teacher who asked that his name not be used, a 16- and a 17-year-old were arguing and began fighting at the end of a hallway. He and another teacher attempted to separate the boys and were able to get one into a classroom, but the other followed.

As administrators started to take the 17-year-old to the office, the student spotted another boy, 16, who pulled a knife and cut him the head and neck, administrators said.

J-Car Arrived A J-Car--one of five vehicles staffed with a Long Beach Police Department juvenile officer and a school security staff member and on call to the school district--arrived soon after.

During the fight, the 17-year-old swung at teacher Forrest Zimmerman, threw a trash can at teacher William King and knocked administrator Robert Brooks to the ground, said juvenile Detective Bruce Clemme.

The 16-year-old also gave administrator Adelmo Martinez a one-inch cut on the hand, Clemme said.

The fight eventually involved two other students, one who said he was trying to help break it up, Van Der Laan said. Those students were suspended Friday, he said.

The 16- and 17-year-olds were suspended after they were released from police custody.

The district's guidance review panel will meet within 30 days to decide if all four will be expelled.

"In every instance where there have been weapons involved, they (the students) have been expelled," Van Der Laan said. District policy is "prior warning, strong enforcement, no surprises. Our discipline code we describe as fair but tough," he said.

The Los Angeles Unified School District's Board of Education enacted a similar policy for city schools on Monday.

Called an Isolated Incident

Although an extra staff assistant has been added at Millikan to patrol the school, Van Der Laan said that Millikan administrators will wait to decide whether to take additional security measures. The stabbing was an isolated incident, he said. "Even though our student population is up, the number of violent incidents is down."

Long Beach police Sgt. Larry Enger, who directs police participation in the J-Car program, said that in 1984, officers in the program made 114 felony juvenile arrests and 125 juvenile misdemeanor arrests on school campuses. During 1983, the unit made 161 juvenile felony arrests and 180 juvenile misdemeanor arrests.

In a report to the school district, Enger said he credited a new truancy abatement program--begun in April, 1984--with reducing school arrests, gang violence and teacher assaults. He did not, however, have comparative statistics.

Long Beach statistics compiled by Van Der Laan for the county Board of Education show that from the 1982-83 to the 1983-84 school year assaults against students have dropped from 93 to 67; assaults against teachers and administrators dropped from 35 to 12; assaults against school staff members dropped from 30 to 24 and students carrying or using weapons dropped from 129 to 104.

"In a district with 62,000 enrolled, there's only about a 1-in-1,000 chance for a student to be assaulted," Van Der Laan said. "That's not too bad."

Many Millikan students agree. "It's not like everyone is scared 'cause there's guns in the lockers," said 17-year-old senior Debbie White. "This is like a no-problem school."

Mike Lazcano, a 17-year-old senior, said, "Once in a while there's a fight, but people don't usually get hurt."

One teacher, who requested his name not be used, said there are security problems at the school, but they are not severe. "I don't feel threatened," he said. "I do feel there needs to be more security, though. We don't usually have that kind of severity (as the stabbing), but the potential is there."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World