Perry Hall High shooting raises safety concerns countywide
Wednesday, 29 August 2012 12:26

BCPS examines school security after incident

by Nicole Rodman

    A 17-year-old student is in critical condition at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma  center after a shooting on the first day of classes at Perry Hall High School.
    The alleged shooter is 15-year-old Robert W. Gladden Jr., a student at Perry Hall High School.     

Gladden has been charged as an adult with attempted first-degree murder and assault in the wake of Monday’s shooting.
    He is currently being held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center.
    Monday’s incident apparently began at the beginning of the first lunch period, around 10:45 a.m.
    Gunfire erupted in the cafeteria as Gladden allegedly fired two shots, one hitting a 17-year-old student nearby.
    Police do not believe the victim was targeted and believe that the shooter acted alone.
    Students on the scene have described the weapon used in the attack as a shotgun.
    According to witnesses, following the second shot, two teachers tackled the shooter, pinning him to a vending machine until police could arrest him.
    There were already police officers in the building at the time of the incident.
    According to unconfirmed Facebook postings, one of the teachers has been identified as guidance counselor Jesse Wasmer.
    The school went on lockdown as soon as the shooting occured.
    Students who were outside of the school at the time of the incident were taken to a nearby shopping center where they were picked up by parents or bused home.
    Students inside the school were taken to Perry Hall Middle School, where they were released.
    Police have not mentioned a possible motive, but unconfirmed social media reports have indicated that Gladden may have been bullied.
    In a Facebook profile allegedly belonging to Gladden, the 15-year-old lists “murder suicide at The Manson Family” in a section indicating employers.
    In a section listing “inspirational figures,” Gladden linked to a profile of Columbine High School shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
    His last Facebook status, posted around 7 a.m. Monday morning, read “First day of school, last day of my life, f**k the world.”
    The school reopened as scheduled Tuesday morning following the shooting.
    According to police spokesperson Elise Armacost, police planned to “enhance their presence” at the school.
    Police announced on Tuesday that they had also arrested Gladden’s stepfather, Andrew Piper,  on charges unrelated to Monday’s shooting.
    Piper was arrested at his home in the 8500 block of Bradshaw Road on charges of illegal weapons and drug possession.
    Police noted in a press release on Piper’s arrest that the gun used by Gladden in the Perry Hall High School shooting did not come from the Bradshaw Road home.
    In the aftermath of Monday’s events, Baltimore County Public School (BCPS) officials have already begun to discuss security procedures at schools countywide.
    No Baltimore County public schools have metal detectors, but there are county police officers assigned to each county high school.
    In a statement released Monday by new BCPS superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance, he said, “The safety of students and staff is our paramount concern and priority. Schools must be safe to be conducive for teaching and learning.    
    He continued, “Our schools have emergency plans in place that are updated annually. Perry Hall High School followed its plan and cooperated with police.”
    Echoing Dance’s sentiments, BCPS spokesman Charles Herndon told The Eagle, “Any time we have an incident that involves student safety, we always debrief and examine ways in which we can improve as well as the areas that worked well.
    “There are already a variety of security measures at schools across Baltimore County, and as you may know all of our schools have emergency response plans that cover everything from natural disasters to threats against schools,” he said.
    Herndon also acknowledged that he is “sure we’ll have more to say about this as we move forward” but could offer no further details at this time.
    For his part, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz reacted to Monday’s shooting saying, “It was a random act of shooting …. It’s a difficult world we live in today. I kind of hoped Baltimore County would be immune from this type of activity, but apparently we are not.”
    U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger also released a statement in the wake of Monday’s events, saying, “I appreciate the rapid response to the situation by the staff and administrators at Perry Hall High School as well as Baltimore County’s law enforcement and first responders, who quickly evacuated the victim and apprehended the suspect.”
    Gov. Martin O’Malley also praised school officials for their actions on Monday, adding, “I’ve spoken with County Executive Kamenetz, and we will continue to support all of our local partners in Baltimore County. It takes all of us working together to make our schools safer for our children.”