Grant High School students on Monday mourned a popular longtime teacher and senior class adviser who was fatally shot last week by an unknown assassin outside of 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 the 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,” said Grant High Principal Bob Collins 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.
‘Basically in Shock’
“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 and then released. “We were convinced at the end of the discussion with him that he was not involved,” 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 on Friday. But he said that he does not even know Arthur.
“It’s sad what happened, but I was home in bed,” the boy said. “I’m not a bad guy and I’m not a trouble-maker.”
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.
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, the senior 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 that had “Hal Baby” stitched on the front. He earned the nickname because of his easy-going style in dealing with the many vendors that did business for senior class activities, the students said.
Senior class officers decided over the weekend to dedicate the senior lawn quad area 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 article.