Almost a month after a man is suspected of threatening to shoot children at Hubbard Street Elementary School in Sylmar, communication between the school and parents over the incident has slightly opened up. However, parents maintain there still hasn’t been a clear message sent to them accounting for what really occurred during the frightening incident.
On Oct. 4, Antonio Montelongo, 30, arrived at the school around 8 a.m. and allegedly told one parent that he had cancer and was going to shoot all the kids at the school. Los Angeles School Police (LASP) and LAPD were called, and the school was placed on lockdown, but after police were unable to locate Montelongo, they left and the lockdown was lifted.
Montelongo returned to the school and was recognized by a handful of parents by his description. When he began to take off his pants, he was tackled to the ground. Police were called back to the school and Montelongo was arrested.
Montelongo faces eight charges for making a criminal threat, indecent exposure and trespassing. He’s being held on $100,000 bail. On Wednesday, Oct. 25, his defense attorney claimed he was mentally incompetent to stand trial.
The case has been moved from the San Fernando courthouse and sent over to the Hollywood Courthouse, where it will be determined whether Montelongo is mentally competent to stand trial by Nov. 8.
Hubbard Street Elementary held two meetings in the week following the incident where parents questioned the response by police and the school, asking why the lockdown was lifted when Montelongo was still at large and the school was left unprotected.
Parents later told the San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol they were “disappointed” by their response. Some were frustrated with the lack of accurate information given to parents; they said even the teachers didn’t know what had happened. Others criticized the principal, Joseph Casas, for seemingly not addressing the situation with the proper amount of concern.
But nearly a month later, there has been a slight improvement.
“I actually have a lot better communications with Principal Casas,” said Patrick Yates, a parent of a fourth grader. “When I left Wednesday from the [San Fernando] Courthouse, I drove directly over there [to the school]. He actually met with me and we had a good meeting.”
Yates, who has been attending the court sessions, said he has Casas’ phone number and is able to directly reach him. Yates is also part of a WhatsApp group with around 150 parents, where he shares the latest updates from both the school and the court with them.
Being the one who has been disseminating information to other parents and seeing how difficult it is to fight misinformation, Yates doesn’t want to put all the blame on the school anymore for not having all the facts right away. At the same time, however, Yates still feels there is a need for improvement.
He said there still hasn’t been any message from the school or the district telling parents or teachers about what happened, adding that the issue has never been addressed properly. Yates also said that parents are looking to form a PTA.
“Did they make a mistake that day? Absolutely,” Yates said. “I, 100 percent in my heart, feel that they know they made a mistake. Do I know if it will change in the future? I hope we will never have to find out.”
The San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol reached out to LAUSD Board Supervisor Kelly Gonez’s office for comment but did not receive a response by press time.