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By The Skanner News
Published: 19 January 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A 15-year-old high school student who was shot in the head when a smuggled gun went off in her classroom opened her eyes Wednesday but remained in critical condition while a wounded boy also continued to improve, a doctor said.

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Meanwhile, the incoming superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District said the school did not follow a policy requiring daily metal-detector scans of some students.

Both students were hit by the same bullet Tuesday at Gardena High School when a gun that a 17-year-old student was carrying in a backpack went off when he dropped the bag on his desk, police said.

The victims, whose names were not released, were taken to the trauma center at nearby Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

The 15-year-old boy was upgraded to good condition after being shot in the neck and could be released in a few days. The girl remained in critical condition because she was not breathing on her own, said Dr. Gail Anderson Jr., chief medical officer at the hospital.

She underwent surgery Tuesday after the bullet hit and fractured her skull but did not penetrate it.

It was too early to determine if she will suffer any permanent damage. However, the girl awoke from sedation and was able to follow commands, although she was still relying on a breathing tube and it was unclear whether she could speak, Anderson said.

"This is a great sign, for her to be able to open her eyes, to be able to respond appropriately," Anderson said.

The girl was able to move both sides of her body but "the left side seems to be much better than the right," the doctor said.

Security was tight Wednesday at the campus in South Los Angeles, where incoming superintendent John Deasy said school personnel had failed to use proper security procedures on the day of the shooting, said John Deasy, the incoming superintendent.

For years, the nation's second-largest school district has required some campuses to use hand-held metal-detecting wands in daily, random checks of students.

"That didn't occur" Tuesday at Gardena High School and perhaps on other days, although the school's daily logs have not yet been thoroughly reviewed, Deasy said.

"We don't know yet. But I think it's at least fair to say from the level of review at this moment that it was sporadic," he told The Associated Press.

"I'm disturbed and angry at that" and disciplinary action will be taken that potentially could involve firing some officials, said Deasy, who will become superintendent when Ramon Cortines retires in April.

The entire district security policy also will be reviewed, he said.

It was not clear if a check would have kept the gun off the gated campus, a massive property with 2,400 students.

"We do not know that this individual student would or would not have been caught because we're still trying to determine how and where he entered campus," Deasy said.

The 10th-grader was in custody at a juvenile detention center after police interviewed him and his mother, said city police Capt. Bill Hayes. The boy expressed remorse, and his mother was concerned about the two victims.

The teenager was on probation for a fight at school last year, Hayes said. He could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon, he said.

The shooting occurred in a classroom at the school, where Principal Rudy Mendoza said students were on a break at the time. The campus, about 15 miles south of downtown, was locked down after the incident.

The current district policy recognizes that security measures can't catch every student committing a crime in the sprawling district, but the procedures have found guns and contraband, Deasy said.

However, officials will look at the policy to see if changes should be made. One issue that may be discussed is whether some schools should have permanent metal detectors at entrances, a costly measure that some other districts have adopted.

Also under review will be the system that provides parents with phone calls or e-mails in emergencies. Some parents complained that they did not receive the messages immediately after the shooting.

Two students were shot at the school in February 2002, when three assailants tried to hold up them in an outdoor area. In the past five years, two students have been expelled for firearms violations.

The school ranks among the district's lowest-performing high schools, with roughly 35 percent of its students dropping out.

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