The School Shooting Issue Comes To Hudson Valley

Photo Credit: Graphic based on an image by Nina Schutzman

Photo Credit: Graphic based on an image by Nina Schutzman

Today, and yesterday, and days before that, social media has been ablaze with parents and community members talking with each other about school shootings. It's the underlying current in any grocery store encounter, any client meeting, and school pickup or drop off. And Beacon's not alone. So many communities around the country are gripped with fear, dealing with fresh threats to schools by what seem to be vengeful kids. More conversations grow out of each threatening event.

At first, this article was planned to inform about actions taking place within the Beacon City School District, based on questionable threats that came in this week. However, other schools in the area closed yesterday, with Poughkeepsie shuttered for a second day today because of a threat. As one parent put it: "A snow day will be a welcome relief," as a nor'easter approaches the area today.

Schools all over the country are facing similar threats. But listening to the radio for local news upon the morning car commute, and a subsequent catch-up on articles from local newspapers, processing this all became very dizzying.

So What's Happening Around The Hudson Valley?

In brief, and this isn't all of the coverage around what is happening, according to WALL Radio based on an article at MidHudson News and the Albany Times-Union, a father and son in Saugerties were arrested after a cache of illegal guns and homemade weapons were found. On February 21, a student alerted authorities after reading the social media posts of her classmate - an 18-year-old senior - as he was praising the teens behind a 1999 shooting in Columbine, CO. When police interviewed him and his father, they both denied having the weapons at their home. Later, according to the article, the father "went home and removed five guns from his home, including a fully automatic 9mm Uzi and an AR-15 rifle." More weapons were found after a search, and a new warrant is pending. Both men were arraigned; the father was released on his own recognizance, while his son was sent to jail, later released after posting $10,000 bail.

Dutchess Deputy SRO Connected to Pivotal Diversion in Vermont

You may have heard about this NPR report covering the text messages back and forth between a girl and her guy friend at Fair Haven Union High School in Vermont after the Parkland shooting. This incident that followed has prompted the governor of Vermont to reconsider looking at gun control measures. According to the NPR report, the governor is a lifelong gun owner and gun rights supporter, but has amended his position after learning more about the almost-shooting that happened in a high school there.

A high school-aged girl texted a friend of hers letting him know about the Parkland shooting, and he replied with, "That's fantastic, 100% support it." She told him he couldn't say that, and he replied with something about "natural selection." The girl reported it to her school guidance counselor, and events unfolded leading to the friend being arrested and held without bail. Included in that discovery leading up to his arrest was a journal he kept called Diary of an Active Shooter, a list of intended human targets, and a recently purchased shotgun.

Dutchess Deputy Evan Traudt is a School Resource Officer (SRO) at Arlington High School. According to a Poughkeepsie Journal article, he went to Fair Haven Union High School in Vermont. He said that he heard about the report from a social worker at Arlington High School. He immediately called Vermont and got in touch with the agency that handles that school district, and passed along information he had.

The Beacon City School District has been considering having an SRO in its schools (see this statement from Beacon's Superintendent in September 2017). According to the Poughkeepsie Journal article, "though not the standard daily duty of a school resource officer, the events underscore key ideas of having a school resource officer - students or staff can reach out to the officer, someone they know and see every day. Ideally, the officer can step in before tragedy occurs."

Back in Vermont, the governor has said: "I'm open to anything. Everything's on the table." According to the NPR report, the governor's table spread includes:

  • Supporting a measure that would allow police to temporarily remove a firearm in a case of domestic violence, without a court order.
  • Giving police the right to seize guns from people deemed dangerous.
  • Raising the age for someone to purchase a gun to 21.
  • Considering universal background checks, magazine capacity limits and other changes.

Meanwhile In Poughkeepsie...

At the Poughkeepsie Journal, school beat reporter Nina Schutzman has been covering the unfolding events, and summed it up in one Facebook screenshot:

Photo Credit: Nina Schutzman

Photo Credit: Nina Schutzman

In one instance, according to this Poughkeepsie Journal article, a threat was made to the BOCES Tech Center in Hyde Park through the social media platform Snapchat, which shows a short video for 24 hours, then the video disappears. A message sent from a person on that platform threatened to "shoot up the school." The Dutchess County Sheriff's Office responded, and charged a teenage girl from Pawling with "making a terroristic threat, a felony, and falsely reporting an incident, a misdemeanor," according to the article. After investigating, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal article, "the threat was found to be non-credible, according to police, and there was no indication that staff or students were in danger at any point." The girl has since been arraigned, during which time she was ordered to take a mental health evaluation, and will report to probation and be electronically monitored.

Shaking Off - Or Breaking Through - The Discomfort Zone

This is all extremely uncomfortable and difficult to talk about because so many issues are colliding at one time:

  • Freedom to bear arms.
  • The right to protect oneself.
  • Unhappy children and teens.
  • What happens next to teens who are arrested after making threats? School expulsion and isolation didn't prevent the Parkland shooting. Clearly, some students who are emotionally upset and depressed begin to think of guns as a solution.
  • Feelings of unpreparedness in active-shooter situations; simply saying the words "active-shooter situations" makes the stomach turn with a variety of uncomfortable feelings.

So we're exploring these issues, and will be delivering a few more articles on the topic in order to break through the discomfort zone to help our community feel and stay safe. Updated articles will be posted below as they get published: