Saturday, March 10, 2001
Steamboat Springs residents were reminded this week, albeit in a relatively mild way, that they don't live in a bubble.
On Wednesday, two students at the middle school made references to dangerous things. While in the lunchroom, one said he was going to "pull a Columbine," in reference to the worst school shooting in U.S.
history two years ago. The other, using a line from a movie,
indicated he was going to shoot someone.
An investigation by school and law enforcement officials revealed that the boys apparently were just talking big. But talking or joking about school violence these days is like saying "bomb" in an airport if the right people hear it, it can lead to big trouble.
That's what those two boys learned. Some of their classmates who overheard the comments reported what they heard to school leaders, who reacted immediately. They pulled the boys out of class to be interviewed, called the Sheriff's Office to investigate and ordered "violence risk" evaluations. The two boys have
been suspended from school until the evaluations
Principal Sandy Hall oversaw the actions by school officials. She also was open with her staff, students, their parents and the media. All of her
decisions were the right ones. They helped calm what was a stressful situation for many involved.
And all over a couple of "jokes," it seems. But what the boys said was nothing to laugh at.
"These were adolescent comments," Undersheriff Dan Taylor said after investigating the incident.
"We believe they made the comments with no
serious malice or intent, but these things you can't say in school."
The good thing is that other students didn't write off the comments as jokes or boyish bravado. That apparently happened in Santee, Calif., in the days before a 15-year-old boy allegedly shot 15 people at his California high school, killing two of them.
We know young people, like adults, get frustrated and angry. And sometimes they say things they shouldn't. But it is no longer OK to defend
comments about school violence as simply foolish talk. The students who didn't do that at our middle school did the right thing.
It's somewhat of a sad day when we praise
children who turn in classmates for talking big.
But that's the world we live in today, even in Steamboat Springs.