West Valley High School is too small to have problems with guns on campus.
At least, that’s what students thought until two students were expelled for having guns at school last week.
“This is Millwood,” said sophomore Bonny Britton, “not L.A.”
On March 21, a freshman reportedly brought a .22-caliber handgun to school to try to sell it.
Two days later, a junior allegedly threatened a Spokane Valley High School student with a sawed-off shotgun in West Valley’s south parking lot.
Both juvenile boys were expelled indefinitely. They will likely face criminal charges of having guns in a gun-free zone.
The gun incidents - West Valley High’s first in recent memory - raised concerns about campus safety.
Principal Cleve Penberthy and assistant principal Mike Van Martre addressed students in a videotaped message shown Thursday.
The introduction of firearms at school is a sign of the times, Van Martre said.
“We’ve lost this innocence,” he said.
Van Martre told students that Washington state law requires expulsion for students caught with guns on school grounds.
Penberthy said he was pleased that a student was willing to break what he calls the “code of silence” by telling a school official about the first gun incident.
If Ku Klux Klan members came on campus, Penberthy said, he hopes that students would feel comfortable alerting a school administrator.
The same should go for drugs or weapons on campus, he said.
“My task is to assure the health and welfare” of everyone at school, Penberthy said.
He called the incidents an “aberration” in the school’s history.
Throughout the West Valley district, just one gun incident occurred last school year - a Spokane Valley High student was expelled for bringing a loaded .38-caliber automatic handgun to school. There were no such incidents in the 1992-93 school year.
Central Valley schools had three gun incidents last school year. The Freeman and East Valley districts had none, but East Valley has had two gun incidents so far this year.
One group of West Valley High sophomore students said Wednesday that last week’s events weren’t enough to frighten them.
“It only happened twice,” said Sarah Shawen. “If it happened more, if people went around with guns, I’d be scared.”
Rumors about the incidents were churning through the student body, they said, but nobody really knew the details.
Penberthy said that the school district has been considering hiring a security officer as “an extra set of eyes and ears.”