November 4, 2008




School Threat Ends Peacefully


     “Not really your typical day in first grade. It’s not something you want to do again.”
     So said my niece in an E-mail with a link to a Bangor (Maine) Daily News report about the events surrounding her day at Stockton Springs Elementary School, which has eighty-five students in grades first through fifth, and eleven teachers and staff .
     Gunman Randall Hofland entered the school about 8:30 a.m., and attempted to coerce two children into a restroom. A parent noticed the activity and immediately notified the school secretary, who told a bus driver. The bus driver went to the cafeteria and confronted Hofland.
     When confronted, Hofland allegedly brandished a semiautomatic handgun, walked down the hallway, and entered a fifth grade classroom with eleven students and at least one teacher. He held a gun to the teacher’s head, forcing her out of the room, and shut the door, holding the students hostage. Two of the students managed to escape, according to my niece. Apparently, Hofland told the kids “from the git go” that he wouldn’t harm them.
     However, as expected, the students were frightened. My niece observed the gunman entering the classroom, then heard screams from the children and the teacher.
     Following the secretary’s 8:37 a.m. call to the Waldo county Communications Center, police from all over the county rushed to the scene, surrounding and securing the school. State police Detective, Jason Andrews, entered the school and began communicating with Hofland through the closed door. In only minutes, Hofland handed his loaded gun to a student, and walked into the hallway, to be tackled by a waiting officer. He was placed in custody at 9:08 a.m., and charged with criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon for a previous event on October 23.  Later, police were trying to determine how Hofland had entered the school, and what he intended to do, and were discussing charges related to the hostage situation.
     Hofland, known to local police, had no criminal record in the state prior to displaying a handgun to a Searsport officer on the evening of October 23, when he was stopped at a safety checkpoint, after which he drove off, turned into his driveway a few hundred feet from the checkpoint, and disappeared. The next day, schools in Stockton Springs, Searsport and Frankfort were closed as a precaution. Since then, the schools have been in a state of heightened security.
     My niece said “It’s changed me…I’m not sure how, yet.” She’s “pissed off,” and plans to speak with counselors the school will be bringing in.
     She’s attempting to go on with life, especially for her two children. At church the nest day she experienced what she said felt like mini-panic attacks. “It’s not me.” When she went to the grocery store, she stopped short upon seeing a man alone. She can identify with victims of house robberies, people who say they feel “violated.”
     She’s grateful that the Maine Department of Education began requiring schools to enlist local police, fire and emergency preparedness officials in creating emergency response plans in 2002, and she’s pleased that the school’s emergency plan was effective, that the teachers knew what to do. One comment on to the newspaper article said, “Everyone was calm. They did what they were supposed to do. The bottom line: Nobody got hurt.” My niece’s class, having an outside door, was evacuated, taken to the school her children attend. She wanted to see her children, to talk to them, but when she went to find them, they were all hiding and she couldn’t see them. “The school was in lockdown,” she said.
     Her husband arrived at the school, and parked, and waited. He wouldn’t go home until he knew she was safe.
     There is a hint of humor in the situation. The children in her classroom seemed more concerned that their Halloween costumes were left behind in the classroom, and they wouldn’t have them to go trick-or-treating.
     When I commented that I felt she’s handled the situation well, she said “We all did what we were trained for.”
     That’s a major point. Training pays off. Maybe we cannot control what happens outside our homes, but we should have a plan to deal with crises in our homes. In case of fire or other tragedy, plan how to escape and where to meet. Know how to call the emergency professionals if they are needed.
     Training. That’s what the schools did. And that’s how the teachers were able to cope with keeping their students safe. And the fortunate event that the gunman decided to surrender, rather than make use of his weapon.
     My niece summed it up: “One terrible, horribly thing went wrong, but everything else went right. We all did what we were trained for.”












LEAF-PEEPING: Autumn Leaves



  1. Bail for the armed man who held 11 Stockton Springs Elementary School students hostage last week was set at $1 million when he appeared in Belfast District Court on Monday.
    Randall B. Hofland, 55, of Searsport faces nine counts of kidnapping, five counts of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and one count of burglary in connection with the school hostage incident. He faces an additional count of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon that stems from an incident in Searsport on the night of Oct. 23 when he allegedly pointed a handgun at a Searsport police officer and ran off.

    Comment by Carolyn — November 5, 2008 @ 3:55 am | Reply

  2. You have more than half of this story wrong. I was in that 5th grade classroom and it’s a horrible memory.

    Comment by Nicole — June 27, 2012 @ 12:50 am | Reply

    • I invite you to comment on your version of the story. Mine came from newspaper reports and a relative. Granted, the newspaper reports used as a source could easily be in error. Unfortunately, these reports are often the only sources unless I do a thorough investigative report.
      Thank you for your notation.
      Carolyn Cornell Holland

      Comment by carolyncholland — June 30, 2012 @ 10:50 am | Reply

      • I used to teach at Stockton Springs Elementary School. I was their music teacher for two years and I missed the sleepy little towns of the Searsport district. When I turned on my TV in Massachusetts and saw that all hell had let loose in my old sleepy school, my heart just sank. I can picture exactly what happened. Today there is an article in this week’s Sunday Boston Globe about child pornography and trafficking of pictures of exploited children. I hate that all schools do lockdowns. I hate that these events are so damned common place. I hate that my students went through this in Stockton Springs. My students probably had younger cousins or siblings in the school at the time. If it can happen in Stockton Springs, it can happen anywhere.

        And then we had the Colorado movie shootings. That week, one of the saints of the day was a little, ordinary monk from Lebanon. The man has been dead for centuries, but he was such a perfect gift for that week. You see, this monk was nothing special, but after his death, his bones worked miracles. He’s one of the wonder workers of the church. Evidently, his goodness and holiness were unnoticed by others during life. I think that God was pointing out that for every person who chooses evil, there are hundreds who don’t and whose love is stronger than any gun or bullet. I know that this is true of the wonderful Mainers in SAD56. We need to keep that in mind and courageously march forward and educate our young people.

        Comment by Suzanne — July 30, 2012 @ 8:58 pm

      • I’ve been to Searsport, had a tour of the school. It was difficult to believe such a tragedy could occur there.
        And yes, God’s love will prevail.
        Carolyn Cornell Holland

        Comment by carolyncholland — July 30, 2012 @ 10:46 pm

    • As someone who was in that classroom and still dealing with after math going on almost 14 years. you should be ashamed of yourself for posting something like this. more then half your story isn’t true. Try I don’t know maybe try reading a legitimate article before you post things you obviously know nothing about.

      Comment by Katt — April 8, 2020 @ 5:12 pm | Reply

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