School Climate & Safety

Second High School Shooting Rocks Calif. District

By Lisa Fine — March 28, 2001 3 min read
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The California district where two students were slain this month was rocked last week by another shooting, in which five people and the alleged gunman were injured.

An 18-year-old senior allegedly took a gun to Granite Hills High School in El Cajon on March 22 and opened fire. Three students and two teachers were injured in the frenzy before the gunman was shot by a police officer at the school with whom he had exchanged gunfire, said Capt. Bill McClurg, a spokesman for the El Cajon police.

The suspect was identified by police as Jason Hoffman, 18, who allegedly brought a handgun and a shotgun to the school shortly before 1 p.m. According to police, he fired shots near the administration building of the 2,900-student school, located in the eastern suburbs of San Diego.

Agent Richard Agundez, an El Cajon police officer assigned to the school, responded to the shots immediately and fired at the suspect, who ran into the street.

The school went into a lockdown, and police let students leave room by room. Parents were able to pick up their children across the street at a park, Capt. McClurg said.

Police said no one suffered life-threatening injuries. The suspect was taken into custody and was scheduled last week to undergo surgery for his wounds.

The school was closed the following day, but classes were scheduled to resume this week.

The incident was the second school shooting this month in the Grossmont Union High School District, where a student at Santana High School in Santee opened fire March 5, killing two students and injuring 13 students and staff members. (“Student Tips Called Key To Avert Violence,” March 14, 2001.)

“No community should have to go through this even once,” said Doug Langdon, a spokesman for the 22,000-student district. “For this to happen twice just compounds the tragedy.”

The Grossmont Union High School District this month became the first in the nation to be awarded financial aid under a federal program designed to help districts deal with the aftermath of violence. U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced March 16 that his department would give the district $50,000.

Counseling and Support

The district has been providing ongoing counseling and heightened security at Santana High since 14-year-old Charles A. Williams allegedly opened fire with his father’s .22-caliber revolver. It was the deadliest school shooting since 14 students and one teacher died at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colo., in April 1999.

“In the aftermath of a school shooting, we need to give our students and their families important counseling and support services to help them to cope with the consequences,” Mr. Paige said in a prepared statement.

The federal grant is the first of its kind under a program called Project School Emergency Response to Violence, or Project SERV, created last year with a $10 million appropriation from Congress to assist districts in helping students and staff members recover from traumatic events such as shootings on campus. The U.S. Department of Education’s Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Program oversees the initiative.

While Project SERV is still on the drafting board, department spokeswoman Lindsey Kozberg said last week that guidelines giving districts access to grants for both short- and long-term assistance were in the works.

Santana High School was flooded with counselors, crisis- management teams, and police officers in the days immediately following the shooting incident there. The federal government itself sent some 200 counselors, and additional mental-health professionals poured in from San Diego and Orange County, Calif., district spokesman Mark E. Pettis said.

Staff Writer Darcia Harris Bowman contributed to this report

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A version of this article appeared in the March 28, 2001 edition of Education Week as Second High School Shooting Rocks Calif. District

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