The $6 million killer

When a 15-year-old boy plots to shoot up his high school, whose fault is it? The school, of course. Thanks to a tip, nobody was killed at Laguna Creek High School, near Sacramento. Two students were arrested. But the parents of a 15-year-old freshman who was arrested plan to sue the school district and the sheriff for $6 million, reports the Sacramento Bee. The family’s lawyer said the kid really planned “suicide by cop,” not a massacre targeting black students and others.

The first claim accuses the school district of not providing the teen with trained counselors when his mother sought help for her disturbed son.

The second claim accuses the Sheriff’s Department of providing the media with false information about the “racial component” of the incident.

“This was blown out of proportion. The NAACP got involved, and there was no reason. Somebody is at fault, and we are working to determine who that is,” (lawyer J. Jeffries) Goodwin said Wednesday.

He disputed claims by law enforcement authorities that the student intended to break into a store to steal weapons and attack the school with guns and explosives.

“This boy was going to take a BB gun to school so that he could be killed,” Goodwin said. “There was no burglary attempt to get guns. There were no bombs. This was going to be a suicide.”

Well, then, no problem. A few sessions with a school counselor would have cured him in no time.

The freshman’s mother met with Platt at the school Jan. 29 and told him she was concerned about her son’s failing grades, lack of motivation, loss of appetite, irritability and talk of suicide, the claim said.

In the first news story, the defendant’s father is quoted as saying the boy had confessed.

The father of the freshman said Tuesday that he was “shocked, dumbfounded” at the charges. He described his son as gentle by nature and said he entertains his siblings with stuffed animals.

But the father conceded that his son told him during the jail visit about the plot. “He admitted to wanting to steal guns from Big 5 and take them to school and shoot people.”

The tipster said the suspects claimed their goal was to “beat Columbine’s record” of deaths, then kill themselves afterward.

In letters to the editor, Bee readers comment on the lawsuit. Unfavorably.

About Joanne


  1. The question of mentally ill and suicidal kids in their early teens is a serious one. We still struggle with taboos on both these subjects. Glib advice to parents to discipline their kids or to suggest that the “suicide by cop” claim is not credible offers no insight to these very difficult, very painful situations.

    Most police departments have very few officers trained to handle the mentally ill. Many school counselors focus on academic programming and are not well prepared for students with brain-based illnesses like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

    The fact is it’s very difficult to identify emerging mental illness in adolescents who exhibit mood swings when they are healthy. I don’t favor litigiousness myself, but in some situations that’s the only way you can get some public agencies to pay attention.

    What would be nice to read from letter writers are suggestions on how the community’s mental health resources could be mustered to help the kid, the parents, and the school’s staff.

  2. Why didn’t mom go to a doctor, rather than the school? There seems to to be more to this story than was reported.

  3. It’s precisely these kinds of lawsuits that will soon force mandatory counseling.

    Some people are unbelievable.

  4. Laura (southernxyl) says:

    The schools’ mandate is to educate, John, not to provide mental health services. That is simply not their function. They are not funded to do it, and they are not licensed to do it. It could be argued that public mental health facilities for the indigent poor ought to be more plentiful and accessible, but those still will be independent of the public schools.

  5. Give the kid some electroshock therapy, a lobotomy, and throw ’em in the mental hospital (problem solved).

  6. Jim Thomason says:

    Wah wah wah. The parents want to blame anyone, anyone but the ones truly responsible – their child and themselves. I enjoyed this in particular:

    “Somebody is at fault, and we are working to determine who that is,” (lawyer J. Jeffries) Goodwin said Wednesday.”

    I hope they have to pay the ton of legal fees that the school will not doubt incur defending this crap. Actually, I wish that this clown who is representing them would also be included in that liability.

    If they made lawyers responsible, at least in part, for the expenses that result from these frivolous suits, there would be far fewer such suits.

  7. The parents are suing the school for not providing instant-cure mental health professionals, and the sheriff’s department, which arrested their kid before he could kill a classmate or engineer his own suicide.

  8. JimInNoVA says:

    Of course, they’d also sue the Sherif’s Dept if their kids were able to carry out their “suicide by cop.” The cynic in me wonders if the parents saw this as a win-win for a $6 Million payout.

    PS: What body cavity did they pull $6 million from?

  9. I know all these comments are just about the lawsuit and each of the commenters has genuine sympathy for people who are ill. Somehow, Bill and Jim and Joanne seem certain they know the facts of the case (I sure don’t) and thus find their sarcasm justified.

    Perhaps you all have noted that most of the recent school shootings have been attempts at suicide by the kids involved. It behooves law enforcement and school officials to try to understand the conditions that make 14 and 16 year olds suicidal–and more than that, to consider a suicide in which others are killed, garnering public attention.

    No one knows the answers to these questions now, so they are worth serious attention. Snide comments hardly promote an attitude of inquiry, though I guess you all already know everything you need to know about what impels adolescents to suicide. [Yeah, snideness begets snideness.]

  10. Rita C. says:

    John, I certainly don’t, but I also don’t see my school staffed to counsel seriously mentally ill children — and we certainly don’t have any licensed psychiatrists in the district who can prescribe medications. The issue needs attention, but not inside the school. We’re doing too much already. Our social worker is completely maxed out now as it is. The parents knew something was wrong, and it’s nice they brought their concerns up with the school, but it was their responsibility to get that kid help, not the school’s. They are the parents.

    I have a number of mentally ill students in my classes; I’m not trained to treat them. I’m barely trained to follow their IEP’s.

  11. pioadadf says:

    Give the kid some electroshock therapy, a lobotomy, and throw ’em in the mental hospital electric scooters pocket bike mini chopper skate board q scooter