Grant High School students Monday mourned a popular longtime teacher and senior class adviser who was fatally shot last week by an unknown assassin outside his Sherman Oaks home.
School administrators and senior class representatives spent much of the day sharing their grief, as well as their determination to complete plans for year-end senior activities that teacher and class adviser Hal Arthur had started. Arthur, 60, was shot and killed Friday morning as he was leaving for work.
“You’ve been chosen by your class to be the leaders and sometimes it’s a hard role,” Grant High Principal Bob Collins said to a meeting of student body officers. The students are planning a memorial service on the Van Nuys campus Thursday to honor Arthur, who had taught history and government classes at the school since 1962.
“Everyone is basically in shock right now,” said Helen Edelstein, the senior class secretary. She and other students say they still cannot believe that anyone would want to harm Arthur.
Los Angeles police detectives said they have no suspects or motive in the slaying. A 16-year-old former Grant student was questioned for six hours Friday, then released. “We were convinced at the end of the discussion with him that he was not involved,” Police Lt. Warren Knowles said.
The student, in an interview Monday, said police gave him a polygraph test and for several hours asked questions about his whereabouts Friday. But he said he did not know Arthur.
“It’s sad what happened, but I was home in bed,” the youth said. “I’m not a bad guy, and I’m not a troublemaker.”
Meanwhile, senior officers began the job of preparing for the flurry of year-end activities, such as the prom and graduation, that Arthur had organized for senior classes at Grant for more than 20 years.
“There’s the gowns and the invitations, ordering everything, picking colors, everything that comes with being a senior he knew about because of his experience,” said Karen Berelowitz, the senior class historian.
‘Knew About Everything’
Arthur was a friend to his fifth-period senior leadership class, his students said. He spoke often of his travels and “knew about everything,” said Janna Talbot, senior class vice president.
“I came in to talk to him on Thursday. I was sick, and the last thing he said to me was, ‘Take care,’ ” Talbot said. “That was typical. He cared a lot about students, and you felt it.”
Arthur wore a Grant team jacket with “Hal Baby” stitched on the front. He earned the nickname because of his easygoing style dealing with the many vendors that did business for senior class activities, the students said.
Senior class officers decided over the weekend to dedicate their senior lawn in memory of Arthur. They spent only a few minutes deciding what to put on the plaque that will be placed on the senior lawn:
Hal Arthur, devoted teacher, caring senior sponsor and an inspiration to all.
“He wasn’t a teacher to us,” Berelowitz said. “He was our friend.”
Times staff writer Michael Connelly contributed to this story.