From my window… Dealing with rumors: It happened and it’s time to move on

Sean McMahon, Editor
Sean McMahon, Editor
EDITOR’S NOTE: It is customary for newspapers across the United States to not use the names of juveniles arrested, issued summons or citations. The one exception is when a person under 18 is arrested and charged with a capital felony — most often murder. The reason I am touching on this subject is because the newspaper has received many calls and emails regarding two recent events at Meeker High School. No “arrests” were made, no actual charges were filed and no names will be used. But sometimes it is the duty of a newspaper to set the record straight regarding rampant rumors and incorrect information that is widespread.

On my first day of work (March 11), I looked out the window to see storm clouds gathering over the Meeker School District. It didn’t take long for me on that Monday to hear that “several” students were given citations for trespassing on the roof of Meeker High School.
Seemed fair to me. These students are old enough to know they shouldn’t be up there; I mean, there has to be some accountability for these teenagers’ actions.
Then I kept hearing more and more details — that seven was the number of students cited but that some parents were upset because this practice of invading the high school roof had been going on for decades and that there is graffiti up there that is obviously more than a few years old and that some of the names included are fairly prominent residents of Meeker now.
Then I heard that officials had “known all about” students climbing up on the roof for decades and no one had done anything about it. I also heard that the door to the roof is never locked and that some students have gained access to the roof from the outside.
Rumors kept increasing and getting more outrageous.
Then, last week’s storm clouds grew bigger and got darker over the Meeker School District.
I heard that a son from a prominent Meeker family was caught with a gun at school and that nothing was done to him. Then I heard that several guns were found and that the teenager was let go without any kind of reprimand other than a wrist slap.
To make a very long story short, I met with Meeker School Superintendent Susan Goettel for an hour in my office on Thursday. During that conversation, I looked out my window to see the back thunderhead starting to dissipate and lighten from its dark gray.
Goettel was very forthcoming about what happened in both instances.
Fact: Seven students were cited for trespassing on the roof of Meeker High School. Their court date is April 24.
Fact: The son from a prominent Meeker-area family had “guns confiscated from his vehicle,” which was parked in the high school parking lot. When asked about the guns, the teen “voluntarily surrendered the guns and they were confiscated.” Following state-established policies and procedures, the boy was suspended for three days and the guns were returned to his parents.
“Both actions followed policy to the letter,” Goettel said. “The policy allows for the citations regarding the trespassing charge.”
“I am also very familiar with the national sentiment about guns on school campuses,” Goettel said. “It is a very serious infraction.”
However, she said, Colorado recognizes that Meeker and many other areas of the state have “hunter/trapper attitudes,” and that the state policy allows that if a student is asked about having a gun on school property and voluntarily turns over the guns to authorities, no charges need be filed but that a three-day suspension is an option.”
One can only voice an opinion on whether the students on the roof should have been let go with a warning. If indeed this trespassing has been going on for 20 or more years, just giving a warning might not have been enough. By issuing the citations, there is clear record now that trespassing will no longer be tolerated.
Face it, there can’t be a student who has ever been on the roof who didn’t know it wasn’t wrong to be there. Apparently, those students have gotten away with breaking the law for many years. Lucky them!
Now, it has been established. Citations will be issued to those caught on the school’s roof without authorization.
Regarding the gun, there is nothing I have been shown that clearly demonstrates the guns were in the school building. Yes, I have heard that one was, and I have heard that they never entered the school building. I personally don’t know which is correct.
Regardless, seven teens are going to court — and I would hope the judge would drop the citations now that the precedent has been set that citations issued in the future will result in citations being dealt with in court.
Regardless, one area teen has also learned that school property is not the place to have any gun or guns. Other states have “hunter/trapper” attitudes, and schools in those states have zero tolerance policies and that student would likely have ended up in jail or juvenile court.
Is that the best way to deal with an incident like what happened at MHS? I don’t think so.
Regardless, a lesson has been learned in both cases.
The solutions to each are quite simple: Stay off the roof of any public institution or you face a possible citation or worse; and keep guns off school property or you could face real legal problems.
This is a double example of where common sense should prevail. The kids messed up, and they were dealt with. It is probably time to move on with a lesson learned.
By the way, the Meeker School Board is currently in the process of reworking and updating its policy manual.
The board has started at the beginning of the book and will work to the end, then adopt the new policy.
I don’t know for sure what the board will do. but I am betting there will be a clear delineation of the trespassing and gun-bearing rules on school property, and that the policy won’t be more liberal than the current policy.
A little tougher might be a good thing, and whatever policy the board comes up with should be available to everyone, and everyone needs to be assured that the policies will be adhered to.