Administration cracks down
A 17-year-old Gardnerville boy was arrested at Douglas High School Thursday after students reported to school administrators he had threatened them.
On Wednesday, the boy was making threats and acting like he was shooting people with his finger, Sgt. Lance Modispacher said.
The incident at DHS came one day after two students at a Colorado high school, wearing black trench coats and heavily armed, opened fire at the school, killing 12 students and one teacher and wounding 23 others before they committed suicide.
The incident has shocked the nation, prompting calls to law enforcement officers and school administrators about safety on campus.
DHS administrators and Douglas County Sheriff’s investigators pulled about seven other students into the office Thursday to discuss their clothing.
One of those was senior class president Jazz Aldrich.
“I had on a sweater with safety pins down the sleeves. They called my parents. It was crazy. I was just wearing what I have been since the beginning of school,” he said.
Investigator Keith Logan said other students said they were uncomfortable with what the seven were wearing.
“Several kids were concerned and at the request of school administrators, we tried to communicate the concern about their mode of dress or things they said,” Logan said.
Jazz, said calling in police officers felt like strong-arm tactics. He said if the administration had just told him his attire was inappropriate, he would have changed. He was also told to take off his wallet chain and a belt buckle shaped like a gun. The items were sent home with his father, who was called to the school.
Logan said the safety pins and chains could be used as weapons.
Jazz said three students dressed similarly were also taken out of class, along with four boys wearing black trench coats.
“The school is just freaking out. This is the first time anyone has had a problem with the way I dress. Instead of bringing all the cops in all over the place, they could have just asked me to take it off,” he said.
Logan said the administration had been planning on making changes in the dress code before the Colorado shooting, but the incident has made everyone more sensitive.
“They asked us to come, and we’d be pretty hard-pressed not to after Colorado. We need to be cognizant of the way people feel and try to help people who feel concern – at least listen and try to help. We want all the kids to be safe,” Logan said.
DHS Principal Bev Jeans said police officers were called in because one student was told in the past not to wear items that could be used as a weapon, such as collars with spikes or chains, and he went to school Thursday with those items.
She also said there is concern by staff members about students who identify with a group known as Straight Edge, whose members have been known to be violent.
“Based on information the sheriff’s department has been receiving, there is concern about a group known as Straight Edge out of Utah. Our dress code doesn’t allow anything that identifies people as part of a gang, representative of drugs or alcohol or sexual innuendo. Yesterday (Thursday), the kids seemed to be more flamboyantly dressed than usual. Some kids came to school in trench coats. We don’t have anything against that, but it’s just not a good time for it now. It’s just not in good taste,” Jeans said.
n Student reaction. Melissa Winter is a senior and said the administration and staff looks down on certain students just because of their dress.
“Sometimes, they suspend people for the wrong reasons. They judge people too much by the way they look,” she said.
She said students don’t want their freedoms infringed upon, even it if could make the school safer.
“Metal detectors could make the school safer, but that’s going too far. It’s taking away the privacy of the students,” she said.
She said many of the students don’t take the issue seriously, even to the extent of joking about it. She said as of Thursday, none of her teachers had discussed the Colorado shootings in her classes.
Jen Weirauch, an 11th grader, said Principal Jeans did address the shooting at a assembly that involved only sophomores and juniors Wednesday.
She said programs like the Yellow Ribbon Program and peer court can help some students, but won’t stop an act of violence like the one in Littleton.
“It’s good that they’re trying to do things that would prevent something like that from happening here, but I don’t think it’s going to stop it,” she said.
Erin Bell is a student council representative and a member of peer court, which will start within the month. The court will attempt to deal with cases of bullying and intimidation.
“I think peer court will serve as another resource for the student body to deal with a problem before it leads to something like in Colorado. It’s another place to turn before they have to go to adults and authority figures,” she said.
Erin said her advanced placement English class discussed what DHS students could do to prevent the Colorado tragedy.
“We can’t sit back anymore and let society take this turn, we need to take some proactive approach,” she said.
Erin said she thinks an anonymous tip line would be welcome to students who don’t feel comfortable telling school staff or their parents.
n Discussions. Counselor Mary Wolery at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School said every teacher at that school has discussed the shooting with students.
“I haven’t dealt with it a lot because the teachers have handled this very, very well,” she said.
Wednesday afternoon at an emergency staff meeting to talk about their crisis response plan, the teachers received guidelines for discussions.
“The student response has been a combination of fear and outrage that teen-agers could do that to their peers,” Wolery said.
She said the school’s answer to preventing school violence is the programs the schools offer.
“A lot of different programs are offered so the kids can feel they can come forward. We have a strong student assistance program. A lot of students are hooked up with mentors, with teachers doing after-school activities, through clubs and just hanging out. There are a lot of support groups in the school,” she said.
Wolery said the school has received some referrals from teachers and parents about students they have concerns about, and the school has followed up.
Wolery said parents who want to talk to their kids about the shooting, but don’t know how, just need to do it.
“Think about what goes on in their particular situation. Personalize it, so instead of looking at that incident, think about what has happened there. Empower them if they are not feeling safe. Even if they are being teased, there are resources, people can help with that, let us know,” she said. “Most of the time, most of the students feel extremely safe in school. Replace that fear thinking with reality – what’s really going on in their life day to day.”