updated 1/19/2011 6:26:43 PM ET 2011-01-19T23:26:43

Security officers wielding metal detecting wands meticulously searched backpacks and students Wednesday in a long line outside a Los Angeles high school where two 15-year-olds were shot in a classroom a day before.

The stepped-up security measures come after a 10th-grader carrying a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun in a backpack somehow accidentally discharged it Tuesday when he put the bag down on a desk at Gardena High School, authorities said.

A bullet pierced a boy in the neck, exited, and hit a girl in the head. The boy was doing well Wednesday, but the girl remained listed in serious condition with a skull fracture.

    1. Hoffman withdrew $1,200 hours before death: sources

      Philip Seymour Hoffman withdrew a total of $1,200 from an ATM at a supermarket near his New York City apartment the night before he was found lifeless in his bathroom with a syringe still in his left arm, sources told NBC News.

    2. NYC mayor will skip St. Pat's parade over gay ban
    3. Indiana man back home 18 years after abduction
    4. 32 states in the path of another wild storm
    5. Judge vows quick ruling on Va. marriage ban

The girl regained consciousness and could move her body Wednesday morning after surgery to remove a blood clot from her brain caused by the bullet's impact, said Julie Rees, spokeswoman for Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance.

The 17-year-old suspect, who was already on probation for a fight at school, was arrested. Police said Wednesday two other students were also taken into custody for investigation of concealing evidence.

A boy allegedly traded clothes with the fleeing suspect and a girl took the suspect's backpack, police Detective A. Batris said.

Story: 2 students shot accidentally with 1 bullet at L.A. high school

In an unrelated incident Wednesday, authorities said a bulletproof vest has saved the life of a Los Angeles school police officer who was shot as he confronted a man who appeared to breaking into cars near El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills.

City Police Chief Charlie Beck said the man got out of a car and fired several times, hitting the officer at least once in the chest.

Security experts and school officials say it is almost impossible to completely prevent students from bringing guns onto school campuses, but there are basic precautions that should be followed, including random metal-detecting checks.

Since 1993, Los Angeles Unified School District has required some campuses to randomly check students with hand-held metal-detectors every day at different times.

A preliminary review of security at Gardena, however, showed the 2,400-student school had lapsed in that procedure, a district official said.

There was no check on Tuesday, and possibly not on other days as well, said Deputy Superintendent John Deasy. "I think it's at least fair to say from the level of review at this moment that it was sporadic," he said.

After an investigation, disciplinary action will be taken that could involve firing some officials, Deasy said.

He ordered Wednesday that all district high schools to comply with the random search policy.

School Police Chief Steven Zipperman, who heads a force of 340 police officers and 147 school safety officers to police some 1,000 campuses, noted that even if the school had conducted a random check Tuesday morning, it may not have revealed the gun in the backpack.

Zipperman said he'll be reviewing compliance with the district's security procedures and ways to tighten them.

"Secondary schools should be doing random searches on a daily basis," he said. "We'll be taking a look at the current frequency of that."

Although some call for metal-detector searches of all students, the long line Wednesday morning at Gardena demonstrated the logistical problem with that, he said.

"It's not feasible to run these schools as if you were boarding an airplane," Zipperman said. "There has to be that fine balance between not disrupting school operations and safety and security."

Random checks are an effective deterrent to kids who think of bringing weapons to school, said Ken Trump, president of consulting firm National School Safety and Security Services. But they must be truly random, conducted at different times of the day and in different places on campus, even on buses, he said.

The best line of defense is an alert staff and student body, Trump said, noting that most incidents of guns at schools are reported by kids. "You have to create a climate where it's not seen as snitching, it's saving lives," he said.

The school district has an anonymous tip line to report suspicious activity, Zipperman said.

Surveillance cameras, metal detectors and X-ray machines are other tools increasingly being used by schools, along with basic procedures such as limiting building access to one entrance, said Patrick Fiel, former security director at Washington, D.C., public schools who is now a consultant with ADT Security Services.

  1. Most popular

An effective communication system with parents is another essential component of a security program, he said. Gardena parents criticized the school for not informing them about the incident and keeping them waiting for news outside the school.

William Modzeleski, who head the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, said research shows "more listening ears" are needed for kids, who may bring guns to school to protect themselves or just as a status symbol to show off.

"More and more, what we're seeing with these shootings, there's often a disconnect between students and adults," he said. "There's a need to understand kids and their motivation to attack this problem."

Above all, experts said schools need to think proactively about violence.

"It's a mentality. A lot of schools say it's not going to happen to us," Fiel said. "But it's happening more often in suburban, urban and rural schools."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments