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Man convicted for 'Columbine'

Andrew Raven
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 15/05) - An enraged father who threatened a high school principal and vice principal after learning his daughter had failed Grade 12, was placed on probation Tuesday.

According to an agreed statement of facts introduced in court, Charles Porter, 50, told officials at St. Patrick high school to "remember Columbine" as he stormed out of the school following an expletive-filled tirade, May 6.

"I'll be back," he yelled while leaving the school with his daughter and her newborn baby. "You remember Columbine, don't you?"

Porter pleaded guilty in territorial court to uttering threats - an offence that carries a maximum of 18 months behind bars.

Judge Brian Bruser handed down a conditional sentence that includes one year of probation and 60 hours of community service. The work should be done at St. Patrick if school officials agree, Bruser said. If Porter follows the conditions on his probation order, he will not face jail time.

Porter had no previous criminal record in the Northwest Territories and friends described him as "reliable" and "happy-go-lucky" in letters of support to the court.

"(His) first priority is his family," said a former co-worker. "He is an exceptional family man, father and grandfather."

Crown attorney Jonathan Burke said St. Patrick assistant principal Coleen McDonald called Porter around 10:30 a.m. on May 6 to tell him his daughter would not be graduating from Grade 12.

Porter was at the school 10 minutes later, where he discussed the situation with McDonald.

Porter's daughter, carrying her newborn child, was also at the meeting.

Burke said the meeting degenerated and Porter angrily asked who was going to pay for his daughter's $1,000 graduation dress and her relatives' plane tickets to Yellowknife.

School principal Johnnie Bowden joined the conversation and Porter became agitated before making the reference to Columbine, where 12 students and one teacher were killed by teenaged gunmen in 1999.

Officials immediately called police who locked down the school for an hour. Porter was arrested without incident a short while later, Burke said.

Teachers shaken

The incident left several teachers shaken, said Yellowknife Catholic Schools superintendent Kern Von Hagen, Thursday.

"Anytime a threat is made, we cannot take it lightly.

"I think increasingly there are staff who are apprehensive in light of recent incidents across North America," he said.

St. Patrick is not immune to threats from angry parents and students but they are relatively isolated, Von Hagen said.

The school has security measures in place for dealing with incidents like those, said Von Hagen.