A Hillsdale High School principal described his former student as brooding, defiant and increasingly withdrawn in the years leading up to August 2009, when the teenager returned to the San Mateo campus with 10 bombs, a sword and a chainsaw.
Jeffrey Gilbert, lead principal at Hillsdale High for the past six years, testified for the prosecution Tuesday afternoon in the San Mateo Superior Court trial of Alexander Youshock.
Gilbert said he knew Youshock better than any other staff member at the high school, where the defendant began attending classes as a freshman in 2006.
"He was very good that first year at completing his assignments," Gilbert said.
Gilbert, who interacted with Youshock in a freshman advisory course with about 25 other students, said he began to feel concerned about the defendant after a "series of small incidents that were red flags to us."
One incident was a geometry exam that was brought to the principal's attention in April 2008, after Youshock had expressed a growing dislike for his geometry and chemistry teachers, Gilbert said.
"He wrote on the test," Gilbert said. "He wrote things about Miss Stucke and Miss Spaulding. It was either obscene or completely inappropriate."
The incident led to Youshock being suspended from school for two days, after which Youshock no longer seemed willing to engage socially or academically, Gilbert said.
"His attendance declined pretty dramatically after the suspension," Gilbert said.
The principal said he communicated with the defendant's mother, Carol Youshock, about her son's behavior and scholastic performance in as many as 10 meetings and numerous e-mails throughout the two years he attended Hillsdale High.
"There were a number of conversations with the mother about counseling and therapy and making sure he was getting those services," Gilbert said.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Jonathan McDougall, Gilbert admitted that at one of those meetings, he referred to Youshock as a "Columbine prototype," referring to the Colorado high school where twelve
students and a teacher were killed on campus by two disgruntled students in 1999.
As early as November 2006, just months into Youshock's freshman year, Gilbert said he filed a safety referral form in which he scored the likelihood of Youshock causing harm to himself on a scale of one to 10. In the short term, he gave Youshock a score of three, but in the long term, he gave him an eight.
The matter was referred to a school safety advocate who typically takes up the concerns with the student in question, but Youshock refused to meet with any campus counselor, Gilbert said.
"It was really clear that for the intervention to be successful, we were going to have to see some willingness to participate on his part," Gilbert said.
Youshock has been charged with two counts of attempted murder, two counts of exploding a destructive device with the intent to commit murder, one count of possession of a destructive device in a public place, one count
of use of explosives in an act of terrorism, and two counts of possession of a deadly weapon.