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Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Lake Stevens teacher on leave after shooting remark

Times Snohomish County Bureau

A Lake Stevens high-school teacher is being investigated by the school district after students say he told them he should take anyone who was talking in class and line them up against a wall and shoot them.

The Lake Stevens School District said it placed the teacher on paid administrative leave and launched an investigation Tuesday after the mother of one of the students complained to the school principal. She said her daughter was berated in class Monday for not paying attention, and when some other students came to her defense, the teacher made his remark.

Lake Stevens district spokeswoman Arlene Hulten said that if the complaint is substantiated, discipline could range from a verbal reprimand to suspension.

It's the second incident involving the teacher, Gary McDonald, in the past three months. In February, he received a verbal reprimand when students in another class complained that he offended Christians by including a biblical account of creation in an assignment on myths the day after telling them he was an atheist.

McDonald apologized after that incident, saying his goal was to get students to think, according to The Everett Herald. He could not be reached Tuesday for comment on the latest incident. Hulten said McDonald, 60, has taught English and social studies in Lake Stevens for seven years and had already announced plans to retire in June.

Sophomore Taylaur Nordhagen said she was "spacing out" in the sophomore English literature class Monday when McDonald called on her. She said she asked him to repeat the question when the teacher "started going off" on her. When she began to cry, she said, he continued to question her until two other students intervened.

She said McDonald then said, "I ought to take whoever is talking in my class, line them up against a wall and shoot them."

Another student in the class, Megan Lane, said students were shocked at the comments.

Lane said students didn't believe McDonald was actually going to line them up and shoot them, "but the fact that he said it was scary," she said. Lane said McDonald earlier in the year made her cry when he criticized a paper she had written and told her she would never amount to anything.

Nordhagen, an A student and cheerleader, said she has asked to be transferred out of the class. Lane said the class has dropped from around 30 students to about 17 as others have transferred out.

Lynn Thompson: 425-745-7807 or lthompson@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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