Local News

Thursday, Jan 17 2013 10:44 AM

Taft Union officials release statement; Stan Lee reaches out to injured student

BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

Taft Union High School’s interim superintendent released a statement Thursday addressing last week’s shooting and the ongoing rumors about past incidents involving suspect Bryan Oliver.

Some parents and students have said Oliver was suspended last year for creating a hit list of students he was targeting, but those allegations have not been confirmed by either authorities or school officials. The superintendent, William McDermott, said he understands the community’s desire for information.

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“We are fully cooperating with law enforcement, including providing them with information relevant to last week’s event,” he said.
McDermott added that information maintained by the school district is confidential and protected from public disclosure under state and federal law. He said student information will be kept confidential even under the present circumstances.

McDermott’s statement is the first lengthy response from a school official since the Jan. 10 shooting.

Other points McDermott made include the following:

• The district is reviewing the incident to see what lessons can be learned, including working closely with law enforcement, mental health professionals, parents and local officials to create a safe working and learning environment.

• The district has taken steps for the protection and safety of students and staff, and is focused on providing support now that classes have resumed. Counseling services are still available.

• Community forums will be held regarding the shooting and the issues and concerns it’s raised. Information about the forums will be posted on the district’s website and at the school.

• Missed athletic events are being rescheduled.

Oliver, 16, entered a classroom and shot student Bowe Cleveland, law enforcement authorities have said. Cleveland has since been in critical condition at Kern Medical Center after undergoing surgery.

KMC officials said Thursday they would no longer release updates about Cleveland’s condition, nor confirm that he was even at the hospital.

Comic book legend sends injured student a message

Friends have taken to calling Cleveland, a comic book aficionado, “Bulletproof Spider-Man.” They began an online campaign to get comic book legend Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man and dozens of other comic book superheroes, to contact Cleveland.

Lee responded with a video message for the injured teen, wishing him a swift recovery.

“You know, I've been told that you're a big fan of mine and I want you to know that means a lot to me,” Lee says in the video. “So I'm sending you this message to let you know my thoughts and prayers are with you, as are the thoughts and prayers of all of Marveldom assembled, as well as the brave Brigadiers of POW!”

The 90-year-old Lee said he’s sending Cleveland autographed posters and comic books for the teen to read as he recovers.

Authorities have said Oliver entered a classroom and shot Cleveland and fired at but missed student Jacob Nichols in an incident that quickly made international news as it was the first school shooting following the massacre at Sandy Hook. Cleveland suffered injuries to his abdomen and chest.

Shotgun pellets grazed teacher Ryan Heber, who, along with campus supervisor Kim Fields, convinced Oliver to drop the gun, authorities said. Oliver was arrested and charged with two counts of attempted murder and three counts of assault with a gun on a person, and has pleaded not guilty.

He’s being held on $1.5 million bail.

A probable cause declaration filed in court says Oliver admitted to targeting Cleveland and Nichols because they bullied him.

Classes at Taft resumed Tuesday, with heavy security as well as local military veterans patrolling the grounds of area schools.

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