By Marlena Hartz: Freedom Newspapers
A Clovis teen arrested in connection with a homicide investigation was carrying a pocketknife when he was apprehended by police in the Clovis High parking lot on Thursday morning.
It was the same knife he allegedly used a day earlier to threaten Ruben Perez, the brother of a 10-year old shooting victim, according to police.
Carlos Perez, a fifth-grader at Clovis’ Cameo Elementary, died Thursday at Lubbock’s Covenant Medical Center from a gunshot wound to the head, police said. He was shot through a bedroom window while he slept in the same room with his brother.
A Wednesday confrontation at Clovis High involving Ruben Perez and Orlando Salas went unreported at the school level, said Clovis High School Principal Jody Balch.
That is often the case, Balch said. Balch said school officials are largely dependent on the student body for information, something many students keep from school officials out of pride.
Balch said visible feuds between students are never neglected by faculty and staff. He said teachers supervise halls between classes and violence on school property is not tolerated. Though Balch said “neighborhood and weekend issues” often surface “at school on Monday,” faculty and staff diminish friction. However, students who rarely attend school are harder to keep tabs on, Balch said.
Now that students at the high school are involved in a homicide investigation, Balch said he and staff will be more vigilant.
“We will try to tune the procedures that are in place, but any major changes would have to be made in communication with the superintendent, the school board, local police, students and parents,” Balch said Friday at the high school.
Balch and three assistant principals deal with violent and aggressive students.
Students who carry weapons to school are immediately removed from the classroom, the principal said. “Usually when a kid carries a weapon to school, they show someone and we soon find out about it,” Balch said.
Students who are caught fighting on campus are automatically suspended for five days, Balch said — the school generally does not deal with more than five fights a month, he said. The punishment for verbal assault varies according to the offense, Balch said.
The Clovis Police Department, prior to Thursday’s homicide, assigned one police officer to the school. Balch said the officer assigned to the high school has responsibilities at schools across the district and is often called away from the high school campus.
Since Thursday’s homicide, police presence at the high school and at other district campuses has increased. Balch said the supervision at the campus will remain heightened into next week, but he said no more officers have been permanently assigned to the site.
Ultimately, Balch said the safety of students lies in the hands of the entire community, not just the school.
“Police can’t do it alone. Parents can’t do it alone. The school can’t do it alone. It will take all of us,” Balch said.
For instance, he said, if parents notice their children have worn the same color of shirt for an extended period of time, they should ask why. He said gang affiliation is associated with certain colors of clothing.
Balch said taking preventative measures to avoid violence on campus, such as installing metal detectors at the school or placing guards at entrances, would be futile because the campus is too “open.” He said there are multiple entrances and exits to various buildings on the campus.
Balch said the death of Carlos “could be a learning moment for our community.” He said it sheds light on the fact that there are drug issues and issues of violence in the community that need to be solved as a group.
Clovis High School counselors said the community could ward off problems among youth with good communication.
“Students need to report incidences and parents need to keep communication open with their children all the time,” CHS head counselor Pam Cornelison said.
Cornelison, CHS sophomore guidance counselor Melissa Winn and CHS senior counselor Diane Tunnell said students at the high school are divided into cliques according to interest. There is often little association between cliques, they said.
Students who do not hang out with juvenile offenders are less apt to be at risk, the counselors said.