Thursday, February 3, 2011

School Janitor Fatally Shoots Elementary Principal in North California

On Feb 2, 2011, a janitor fatally shot an elementary school principal in Placerville, Calif.The shooting occurred at about 10:30 a.m. (Pacific Time) in the principal's office at Schnell Elementary School. The janitor, identified as John Luebbers, 43, fled the scene on foot to his home, where he was arrested. Principal Sam LaCara, 50, died at Marshall Hospital from a single gunshot wound to the torso. The motive for the shooting remained unclear but the two apparently had a dispute. Some parents described Luebbers as "grumpy" and "rude" toward some students.

Janitor John Leubbers
No one else was hurt or threatened with violence in the incident, but the shooting prompted a security lockdown at the school that lasted for at least two hours. Buses eventually arrived at the school to transport students to the El Dorado County Fairgrounds, where they will be reunited with parents.
Parents said LaCara did a good job at the school. LaCara was the married father of three daughters and a respected school administrator known for his sense of humor and love of sports. He lived near Carmichael. "It's a tragedy for Placerville and our entire society," said at an afternoon news conference. The El Dorado County office of Education said Thursday classes at all three Placerville district schools are canceled.

Points for Consideration:
  • Workplace violence between adults or between adults and students is a reality. Not all violence that takes place at schools is between students.
  • In times of budget cuts and job layoffs, sometime educational leaders can be put in situations where they have to eliminate positions, programs, or terminate personnel because of poor performance. 
    • Employers who have to terminate employees need to plan for worst case scenario because an untrained individual reacting to an emotionally distraught individual or an irate and potentially violent individual can easily lose control of the situation.
    • Having the School Resource Officer or School Security aware of the termination meeting is a prudent measure.
  • Employees can be experiencing stress in their lives or be in crisis, and educational leaders and co-workers may not be aware of this or the volatility that can occur. There is such a focus on the right of privacy that folks forget about public safety or workplace safety. 
  • How do school administrators become aware of employees who may have a mental disorder or who may be developing one?
  • In reduced budgetary times, educational leaders are often having to task employees to do more with less help or resources. This can generate stress in the workforce and must be a consideration in managing organizational morale.

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