Originally created 09/30/00

Columbine threat earns suspension



AIKEN - The mention of the word "Columbine" got a freshman suspended at South Aiken High School this week, school officials said Friday.

The unidentified student has not been charged, but she was immediately suspended for 10 days and recommended for expulsion after making a threat, said Bill Gallman, Aiken County schools deputy superintendent.

The student had been called to the office of Assistant Principal Joyce Thompson on two occasions for unspecified violations of the Student Code of Conduct. During both occasions, the girl told the assistant principal that "she was going to have to do something that she would regret," according to Dr. Gallman.

On Tuesday, the freshman was again called to the office to discuss two other minor violations.

"At that time, the student said she would have to do a Columbine here at school," Dr. Gallman said.

Shortly thereafter, the girl's grandmother signed her out of school when she complained of feeling ill. After hearing about the Columbine threat, Principal Bill Gassman made the decision to suspend the girl and recommend expulsion.

Mr. Gassman said a school resource officer was notified of the incident, but that officer decided the school could handle the matter internally.

Dr. Gallman said the school handled the matter appropriately, putting the girl on trespass notice and alerting school administrators.

"It appears that the student clearly threatened to create a major disruption," Dr. Gallman said. "That would be taken seriously ... The typical procedure would be for the school resources officers and school administrators to be on alert, and they would know the identity of the student and know she was not allowed to return."

The girl may appeal the expulsion to the Area Advisory Council. If the panel upholds the expulsion recommendation, she could appeal to the Aiken County Board of Education.

Columbine is the name of the high school in Littleton, Colo., where two students went on a shooting spree April 20, 1999. Twelve students, a teacher and the two teen-age gunmen died in the attack.

The Aiken County school system has since instituted a zero-tolerance policy for violence or threats. In April, two Midland Valley High School students were arrested and expelled after classmates said they were talking about bombing the school and shooting students on the first anniversary of the Columbine massacre.

Ninth-grader Robert Turner spent four months in a juvenile detention center and was convicted of making the bomb threats, but a judge allowed him to go home on probation Aug. 24. He has since entered alternative school at LBC Middle School. The other student, Jaris Simon, was acquitted because of a lack of evidence.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895.