The 16-year-old high school student accused of stabbing his teacher in the head with a pencil Wednesday has been arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, but his motive remains a mystery, investigators said.
The boy, whose name has not been released by police because he is a juvenile, was taken into custody after an intense but brief search Wednesday afternoon. He is being held at juvenile hall.
"The kids (who) were in the classroom basically saw this (student) attacking the teacher all of a sudden, unprovoked," Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Dave Linscomb said. "As far as motive is concerned, it's unclear what it was."
The boy did not have a known history of violence before stabbing Tyler Ahlborn at the close of the lunch break Wednesday, police said. Police found no evidence the boy was intoxicated at the time.
Ahlborn teaches English, social studies and other subjects at the 70-student Midrose High School, an alternative school located on the Elsie Allen High School campus on Bellevue Avenue. He was stabbed multiple times with a mechanical pencil. The 33-year-old teacher sustained non-life-threatening injuries to his forehead, neck and forearm.
He was treated at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and released Wednesday.
"This is a hard man," said Alan Petty, a teacher and rugby coach at Elsie Allen High School who has known Ahlborn since he coached him as a Lobo rugby player.
"He is a tough human being," Petty said. "It's not going to dissuade him; he loves those kids. He'll be right back there."
Since graduating from UC Davis and becoming a teacher, Ahlborn had his sights set on teaching at Midrose, an alternative program housed on the Elsie Allen campus and designed to help students make up credits, Petty said.
"He truly believes in helping kids that really need to be helped," he said.
While the incident has shocked many in Sonoma County's largest school district, the act of violence is relatively rare, police said.
"As far as from the violent crime investigation aspect, it's very rare that a teacher would be attacked in such a way," Linscomb said. "In fact, I can't remember that happening."
The attack, which prompted a nearly two-hour lockdown at Midrose and the wider Elsie Allen campus, is isolated, said Sgt. John Snetsinger, who oversees the school resource officer program that assigns an officer to each of the five comprehensive high schools in Santa Rosa City Schools, as well as their feeder middle schools.
Snetsinger, who is not part of the team investigating the stabbing, said that all campuses experience "flare-ups and disturbances" but that the vast majority of problems can be handled on campus through school procedures and never become criminal police investigations.
"This appears to be an incident isolated to that student; it's not a school issue," he said. "Elsie Allen is just as safe as any campus."
Still, the incident has prompted calls for greater support for teachers in handling students who are aggressive or suffering from mental illness, said Andy Brennan, president of the Santa Rosa Teachers Association.
"Teachers need to be trained in conflict management. We don't get that," he said. "As far as how to identify and deal with different students, especially students with mental health issues, the training is woefully inadequate."