Court to rule on teen’s enrollment at Cuesta College

March 10, 2016

Bret Stephen LandenA former 4.0 high school student is at risk of getting kicked out of Cuesta College on a court order. [Tribune]

Bret Stephen Landen, 18, is accused of placing a fake chemical weapon at an elementary school on Sept. 11. Landen is attending Cuesta College despite a court order to stay away from schools, and a judge may determine next week whether Bret Stephen Landen can continue taking classes at the community college.

On Sept. 11, Landen allegedly zip-tied a jar containing chemicals to a fence near the playground at San Gabriel Elementary School in Atascadero. He also allegedly left threatening letters around the campus.

Landen’s alleged stunt brought out the bomb squad and led to a two-week shutdown of the elementary school. Police arrested Landen in October, and on Monday, he pleaded not guilty to 30 felony charges.

In December, San Luis Obispo Judge Jacquelyn Duffy issued an order prohibiting Landen from using or possessing weapons, firearms and ammunition. Duffy also ordered Landen to stay at least 100 yards away from all schools except for Chalk Mountain Community School, a campus for at-risk youth.

But, Landen has been enrolled at Cuesta College since spring semester classes began on Jan. 19. He is registered for 11 units, Cuesta College spokeswoman Lauren Milbourne said.

Milbourne said Cuesta College is working with the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office to seek confirmation from the court that it has the legal authority to enforce the order barring Landen from schools.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for March 16.

Following Landen’s arrest, his father said the San Gabriel Elementary School incident was an ill-conceived prank that was not meant to hurt anyone or cause terror. Landen used chemicals from his father’s childhood chemistry set to conduct the prank, Landen’s father said.

During the 2014-2015 school year, Landen carried a GPA of 4.0 or higher at Atascadero High School, according to the school website.

Prosecutors have charged Landen with 27 counts of making threats to commit a crime of violence, two counts of second-degree commercial burglary and one count of threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction.

The Atascadero Unified School District is also seeking restitution in Landen’s criminal case. The stunt cost the school district an estimated $206,000.

Jorge Estrada

What kind of mind would place a fake hazard near a public school? This question will follow him for a long, long time and who ever hires him will have to consider this risk.


P.S. I don’t think he has any business around another school – even if it’s not an elementary. There are college courses available online.


Agreed. Let him stay at home with Mommy and Daddy until he goes to prison.


Wonder how many times the parents have made excuses for their son’s behavior…

Anyway, this kind of “prank” isn’t funny. Not only did it scare hundreds of kids and parents, it disrupted families lives for a couple of weeks while the kids were shipped off to other schools. I doubt they were laughing. I wish parents would have meaningful conversation with their kids about what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior out in public. It’s the only way they know what is expected of them!


Denial is pretty common for us all. I think when a kid starts acting up, lots of parents start blaming others; the teacher, the other kids, the system. I don’t know what the answer is to this problem.


I think that “consequences” for the issue is a step in the right direction.


You can talk till you’re blue in the face, but the problem with some kids is that they still manage to come up with things that you never would have even thought to tell them them about. You can’t teach common sense.


Pretty sure the reason chalk mountain school is not included as one he must maintain a certain distance from because he resides near that location not because of any reason of lesser threat.


When Atascadero expels students from the high school, they put them at Chalk Mountain. I’m wondering if that is what they did with him. Kids are entitled to an education, that’s why they have teachers in the juvenile prisons. I don’t know what happens when they turn 18 as Landen did.


bright people doing stupid things


I guess with his 4.0 he is too entitled to be at Chalk Mountain. I think his parents made a bad decision. Being there would have been a good consequence, and maybe the staff at the school could have helped him with his emotional problems.

Is he more dangerous at Cuesta than Chalk Mountain.? I think it is a possibility because at Chalk Mountain his emotional stability would be closely monitored.

I think the parents are in denial.


I’m guessing Chalk Mountain would have a probation officer on duty.

You nailed it. Mommy and Daddy’s ego would not let him attend Community School and since he was 18 he could be expelled and go directly to community college.

If Mommy and Daddy want to make excuses for his behavior, he should only be allowed to take online classes from any college – but not step foot an a campus with student sand teachers of any age. Let him be home with them.

BTW when is he going to be tried for his 4.0 GPA lapse in judgment?

Remember…. he was trying to scare the faculty.


Once he gets out of federal prison for plotting, planning and committing a terrorist act, he can go to any school he wants…

And where was daddy and mommy when their straight A student was busy assembling and concocting his bomb in their home?


I keep seeing constantly that he has a 4.0 GPA. like this matters. Ted Kacynski was well educated too.

This father of his drives me nuts. First playing off as youthful prank (let’s not forget time to set up) and I BET he is the one who got kid to go to Cuesta and ignore the court order. Yea laws don’t apply to us.


That joke really bombed.