Teacher simply wrong on threatened violence

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By Ben Carlson


Column as I see ’em …

Lynne Higdon should know better.

Higdon, a teacher, blasted this newspaper Tuesday in the letter to the editor for publishing the name of a student arrested for allegedly threatening to shoot fellow students and presumably school staff.

Higdon compares the student’s alleged threat — he’s 18, which also makes him an adult — to those who make but have no intention of carrying out the threat of punching someone.

As an educator, Higdon should and almost certainly knows that even uttering such a comment is nothing short of bullying, and there’s no question that students have had it drilled into their heads that bullying and threatened violence are non-starters.

It’s even more obvious that when a student utters a threat that includes shooting, there is no middle ground and that student needs to be reported and, based on investigation, charged.

If Higdon is savvy enough to determine idle threats from the real thing, she is in the wrong line of work and should immediately apply for a law enforcement position within the district.

Barring that level of expertise, would Higdon have preferred that the student in question receive a stern lecture from a principal and sent on his way? I certainly hope not because given the tragedies we’ve all seen unfold in multiple school districts, any utterance of a threat in schools, particularly those referencing firearms, should be taken very seriously.

Fortunately, the Los Alamos Police Department made the correct choice and acted first on behalf of the side of student safety, ensuring that the student didn’t have the chance to demonstrate the sincerity of his alleged threats.

Oh, and by the way, Ms. Higdon, in the first line of your letter you write the following: “I have been saddened by the two front-page stories about a high school boy the paper claims is a threat to the school.”

You should know, too, that this newspaper made no such claim that the “high school boy” is a threat to the school. We don’t make those sorts of claims, Ms. Higdon, and we certainly will always choose to tell the parents of other students the names of those who make such threats. They deserve to know who, what, when, where and hopefully why, whether you like it or not, Ms. Higdon.

That “claim,” by the way, came from police investigators who charged him, and by a judge who ordered a fairly stiff amount of bail to allow him to leave a jail cell.

Don’t shoot the messenger, Ms. Higdon, no pun intended.

Speaking of schools …

I had a pleasant lunch Tuesday with school Superintendent Gene Schmidt as his guest at a Kiwanis meeting.

I knew Schmidt only through what I’d read about him in this newspaper, primarily regarding his dust up earlier this year with a few school board members.

Given the backbone he showed during that episode, I imagined that I’d like Schmidt when and if I met him, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Though we certainly didn’t have an extended conversation about the state of public schools in Los Alamos, what we did discuss I found very interesting, including some of his plans for the final year of his contract.

I took up for Schmidt in this space immediately following the previously mentioned dust-up, and now I’m even happier that I did.

Speaking of revealed …

A story from the Associated Press earlier this week made me laugh, but not because it was necessarily funny.

The report was about the federal Bureau of Land Management’s failure to properly inspect high-risk wells in New Mexico, including “substantial gaps” in oversight by “the agency that manages oil and gas development on federal and Indian lands.”

What made me laugh is that this is the same bunch who made national headlines by being armed to the hilt and drawing down on women and children during a land dispute with what most would agree is an oddball, or worse, rancher in Nevada.

The “official” story was that the rancher hadn’t paid federal grazing fees for his cattle, sparking the showdown that forced the BLM agents to blink when hundreds of armed cowboys showed up in a show of resistance.

Never mind that the BLM and IRS are among the federal agencies now armed well enough to prosecute a sizeable war on American soil. Never mind, too, that the only logical prosecution of that war inside American borders would be one necessarily targeting American citizens.

Focus instead on the fact that while dozens of armed agents were dispatched over unpaid grazing fees, work that could actually protect New Mexicans and others went undone. Priorities, BLM, please.


Ben Carlson in publisher of the Los Alamos Monitor. Contact him at bcarlson@lamonitor.com.