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Student, 15, Stabs His Teacher in the Back

Times Staff Writer

A ninth-grade student at a Sylmar junior high school stabbed his teacher in the back Monday while being disciplined in class for using profanity, Los Angeles police said.

The Olive Vista Junior High teacher, 37-year-old Cynthia Edwards of Palmdale, was in stable condition after a three-inch knife blade, embedded to the hilt in the back of her shoulder, was removed at Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, hospital officials said. No vital organs were damaged, they added.

The 15-year-old, ninth-grade student had a history of troubles with Edwards and other teachers and had been transferred to Olive Vista because of disciplinary problems, authorities said.

He surrendered to school administrators shortly after the stabbing at 1:15 p.m.

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Assault With Deadly Weapon

Police said the Pacoima youth will be held at the Sylmar Juvenile Hall, where he was booked for investigation of assault with a deadly weapon.

Lt. Bernard D. Conine said Edwards called the teen-ager to the front of the classroom because he had disrupted the English class of about 25 students.

“He used profanity,” Conine said. “She was writing him up. When the teacher turned away she was stabbed in the back.”

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A classmate who asked not to be identified said she believed that the student had not completed an assignment and became abusive when Edwards chastised him.

Edwards was sitting at her desk when the boy walked up and stood behind her, the witness said. Moments later, Edwards cried out, “He hit me!” and then realized that she had been stabbed.

“It was so strange,” said the student, who did not see the actual attack. “This is not a bad school. But this is hard to believe.”

Ran From Class

Many of the students panicked and ran from the classroom yelling that their teacher had been stabbed, officials said. A teacher from an adjacent classroom ran in and, along with other students, comforted Edwards, who lay on the floor until an ambulance arrived.

“The kids were pretty good,” Assistant Principal Linda Hosford said. “They were naturally upset. But they tried to take care of her.”

School officials made a general announcement to the faculty and student body about the incident, and classes at the school at 14600 Tyler St. resumed.

Officials said they will offer counseling today to any student who requests such help.

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Edwards has been at Olive Vista for one year. School officials said she taught elsewhere in the Los Angeles Unified School District for years, but further details were not available.

District officials described her as a well-respected, veteran instructor.

At the time she was stabbed, Edwards was writing a “referral” for the student, police said.

Common Disciplinary Action

School officials said a referral is a common disciplinary action in which a student who is disruptive in class is sent to the school’s referral room for the remainder of the class. In the referral room, the student is monitored by another teacher. When the next class period begins, the student can return to his normal schedule.

Assistant Schools Supt. Gabe Cortina said a referral is “pretty minor” and he was surprised by the student’s response.

“It is rather bizarre behavior,” Cortina said.

Cortina said he did not know when the student had transferred to Olive Vista and would not reveal the name of his former school or what problems, if any, he might have had there.

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School officials said the boy previously had been disciplined and counseled by Edwards because of behavioral problems.

Cortina said the boy also had “family problems,” but would not elaborate.

‘Lot of Problems’

“He’s had a lot of problems with maturity and focusing on class,” Cortina said. “But there was never anything this serious before.”

School officials and police said the student had no known gang affiliation. They said that while it was unknown how long he had been carrying the weapon on campus, he had never been caught with a weapon before.

Several students who know the youth described him as a friendly boy who did not like class work, but enjoyed sports, particularly basketball. Most expressed shock upon learning that he was accused of stabbing a teacher or that he even carried a weapon.

“He always seemed real cool, like a normal kid,” said Mario Alcazar, 14. “He’d get mad at teachers, but you don’t stab them.”

Assistant Principal John McLaughlin said Olive Vista has a good safety record for both students and teachers.

“It’s a safe place, it’s a Valley school,” he said.

Weapons Rarely Found

Officials said they could not speculate on how many students in the school of 1,600 might carry weapons on campus. Though records on how many weapons have been seized at the school were not immediately available, officials said weapons are rarely found on the campus.

“We can’t systematically search kids every single day,” Cortina said. “We try to be alert. This is generally a very safe campus. This is an exception.”

On May 3, 1988, two Olive Vista students were shot near the school and seriously injured. In that incident two gang members, who did not attend the school, drove by the school and fired a gun into a crowd of students walking home after classes.

On Monday, as reporters and camera crews moved down the hallways after the school day ended, some students worried that the two incidents will give Olive Vista an undeserved black eye.

“People are going to look at the shooting and stabbing and think this is a bad school,” one student said to a friend. “But it’s not.”


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