Los Angeles Unified School District officials said Wednesday they are continuing to cooperate with police as they investigate an Aug. 27 shooting that injured a student at Hollenbeck Middle School in Boyle Heights.
The shooting, in which the student was apparently struck in the jaw, came to light Tuesday when it was discussed at an LAUSD board meeting by Gil Gamez, head of the school police officers union.
“Law enforcement believes that a discharge of a firearm from outside of the campus inadvertently struck and injured a student who was on school property,” according to a statement issued by the district Wednesday. “We are thankful that the student is recovering. The safety and well-being of our students and staff is always our top priority and we remain committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment at all of our schools.”
After Gamez spoke to board members Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times made immediate queries and School Police Chief Steven Zipperman quickly put together a written briefing for the Board of Education and released the document to the newspaper.
An LAPD spokesman said the department agreed with the facts in Zipperman’s report.
“A student was standing in line at nutrition/lunch, when another student standing behind him mentioned he was bleeding near the ear/jaw area,” Zipperman wrote to the board. “The student apparently also felt `something’ strike him.”
The school nurse treated the student but “it was still unknown what caused the bleeding,” Zipperman’s report said.
“At the time of this incident, no other persons, both students and adults nearby, heard or saw anything unusual,” Zipperman noted.
The boy’s mother took him to a hospital, Gamez said.
Hollenbeck Principal Elsa Bolado had sent out brief phone and email messages to parents saying “there was an incident outside the school that caused a student at Hollenbeck to be injured. Be assured that the student is well and all of our students are safe.”
The principal offered a revised version of events in a message sent out Tuesday night, after the disclosures by Gamez.
“We have received further information that the injury appears to be a result of an `off-campus’ discharge of a firearm from an unknown location or person, whereby the projectile came to rest within the campus perimeter, striking a student,” the principal said. “As previously mentioned, the injured student is recovering and has been receiving the necessary support.”
Hollenbeck is a large campus, occupying about two blocks atop a short hill, and serves about 1,000 students. Its white, red-roofed buildings and open spaces are surrounded by a chain-link fence, which provides separation from the surrounding streets. The outdoor lunch tables are clearly visible from beyond the fencing.
The last time a student was injured by a bullet at a Los Angeles middle school was Feb. 1, 2018, after the apparently accidental discharge of a gun in a student’s backpack at Salvador Castro Middle School west of downtown.
Gamez raised the issue of the Hollenbeck shooting to argue for more funding for school police officers on campus. He said each middle school used to have an assigned officer. Now an officer will patrol the area around two or three middle schools, he said.
There also are activists, including students and civil rights organizations, who are calling for fewer officers and less policing on campus. Their faction gained ground last year when the school board agreed to stop the random searches of students on some campuses. The activists called the practice dehumanizing and ineffective.
Defenders of the searches, including McKenna and Gamez, said the practice had deterrent value, making students less likely to bring a weapon on campus.
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