May 4, 1956
Seat Pleasant, Maryland
14-year-old Billy Ray Prevatte shoots three teachers, killing one

Prevatte had a history of violence in school, including previously being expelled for threatening a teacher with a knife. His gym teacher had instructed Prevatte to write “I will keep quiet in gym class” 100 times after causing a distraction in class. Prevatte wrote the phrase only 70 times, and was further reprimanded by being sent to the principal. Principal Hrezo told Prevatte to wait in the hall as his punishment, but the eighth grader left the school, went home to retrieve a gun and a car, and came back to the junior high school.

When Prevatte returned to the school, he crashed the car into a wire fence. The accident brought several workmen who witnessed the crash, though Prevatte jumped from the car and fired several shots above their heads. He entered the school, asking the school receptionist where the principal was. She inquired why he was looking for the principal to which the boy replied “I’m going to kill him.” It was then the receptionist noticed the .22 caliber rifle and screamed, which caught the attention of physical education teacher Francis Daniel Wagner. Wagner tried to disarm Prevatte but he was shot during the scuffle and lost consciousness.

Prevatte visited an eighth grade classroom in session, again questioning where Principal Hrezo was located. The teacher, Frazer Cameron, rose from his desk. Prevatte shot him twice: one bullet grazed the teacher’s forehead while the other struck his chest, killing him. Another teacher, Robert Hicks, attempted to wrestle the gun from Prevatte and was also accidentally shot and injured. Police, summoned by the receptionist when Prevatte first made his intentions known, arrived almost immediately after Mr. Hicks was injured. Prevatte was arrested without further incident.

Prevatte attempted a plea of innocent by reason of insanity, but was unsuccessful. He was sentenced to life in prison, though according to an article in The Washington Post (Dec 10 1988), he was paroled an unspecified time later, only to be convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in North Carolina in 1975. He was sentenced to 10 years, though it seems he was released early for that charge, as well, as he was convicted in 1977 of hiring a hitman to kill a witness against him in a burglary case in Maryland. For this attempted murder conviction, he was sentenced to 40 years, though he was paroled 4 years into his sentence. I could find no further information on him.

One thought on “Eighth grader shoots teachers after being reprimanded (1956)

  1. I always thought that juvenile delinquency in the 1950’s, when fatal, was usually gang on gang violence, with the occasional innocent bystander being “mistaken” (or in some cases, intentionally “mistaken”) for being a member of a rival gang, such as the brutal murder of innocent non-gang member Michael Farmer (who was a polio victim) in 1957 at Highbridge Park, New York.

    However, this article just shows that perhaps, the in-school shootings that we have today, in seemingly “nice” neighborhoods isn’t really a new phenomenon at all.

    This is very important information, so thank you for sharing this.


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