Latest school shooting has parents seeking alternatives

Saturday, March 24th 2001, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) _ As new details emerge about the second school shooting in this area in a month, some frightened parents are demanding tighter security while others are seeking alternative ways to educate their children.

``Brick-and-mortar schools will cease to exist if this continues,'' said Mike Cook, who is considering home-schooling his 15-year-old daughter rather than allowing her to return to Granite Hills High School.

``If we can't stop it, home-schooling will start and Internet education will take over,'' he said.

Authorities say 18-year-old student Jason Hoffman opened fire at the school Thursday afternoon, wounding three students and two teachers, none seriously, before a campus officer felled him in an exchange of gunfire.

His father told the Los Angeles Times he hadn't been able to speak to his son since the shooting and didn't know what could have triggered the attack.

``I am sorry for what happened, but I do not know anything,'' Ralph Hoffman told the newspaper.

Authorities said Jason Hoffman skipped classes Thursday morning, then arrived at school just before 1 p.m. with a 12-gauge shotgun in his hand and a .22-caliber handgun in his waistband. Authorities said Friday that Hoffman was targeting the vice principal.

One shot was fired at Vice Principal Dan Barnes, who escaped injury by ducking into an office.

``All we can say about the motive is that, by the virtue of the charges, the focus of this individual was the vice principal,'' prosecutor Paul Pfingst said.

The teen-ager will likely be charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, authorities said. Police said they were trying to determine who owned the two weapons and a pistol found at Hoffman's home.

Earlier this year, Hoffman allegedly made a reference to the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., where two students killed 12 students and a teacher before killing themselves.

Bernadette Roberts, 18, said girls were making noise in a classroom in January when Hoffman appeared to become frustrated, put his hands in the shape of guns and said: ``I wish I could do Columbine all over again.''

``When he said it, it really shook me up,'' Roberts said.

Roberts said she told a teacher and later met with Barnes, who asked if she needed protection. She said she declined and didn't know what steps the district took.

Officials of Grossmont Union High School District, which includes both Granite Hills High and Santana High School, where two students were killed in a shooting March 5, did not return phone calls seeking comment Friday. Police Chief James Davis said investigators were aware of the report but declined further comment.

Hoffman, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound, senior who some students described as an angry loner, remained hospitalized with a broken jaw and a wound to his buttocks.

The Associated Press learned Friday that Hoffman assaulted a middle-school classmate several years ago and was ordered to attend an anger management class. Hoffman was 14 when he struck the student in the head with a racquetball racket, according to a source familiar with the case who spoke on condition of anonymity. The victim was not seriously injured.

Records in that case are sealed because Hoffman was a juvenile at the time, but the source said a charge of assault with a deadly weapon was reduced to a misdemeanor and Hoffman was given probation and ordered to attend the anger management class.

Classes were canceled Friday at Granite Hills, only a few miles from Santana High School in Santee.

All options are being considered to bolster campus safety in the wake of Thursday's attack, said district Superintendent Granger Ward.

Those options could include metal detectors, a stronger police presence, more guidance counselors and closing district campuses, many of which have open courtyards, to visitors, Ward said.

But not everyone agrees such drastic measures are the answer.

``I don't think we should have fences because it'll feel like a prison,'' said 16-year-old sophomore April Keifer. ``I just think we need to be more cautious about how we talk to people and make more friends than enemies.''

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