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Beat the Record


Yesterday, I wrote about Preventing Horror. A bit more today...

It turns out that two of my sons, who attend high school, were told yesterday of a student who stated that he wanted to "beat the record" of the Virginia Tech murderer. The sophomore was removed from school yesterday.

Question: will the student return?

The student probably will return. Perhaps as soon as today.

Question: does the student have a right to return?

No. In my view, the student just opted out of the school year for a comment like that. And if the student has a history with either mental health professionals or if the student has made other threats to harm himself or others before, then the student has opted out of every other school year. At the least, that kid just punched in his card for home-schooling or became a dropout. More suitably, he should go to jail. He should become his parents' and the court's problem - not the school's and not mine.

You don't make a statement like that and get a free pass; otherwise people will make careless, thoughtless comments all the time and get away with it and no one will know who's making the real threat and who isn't until it's too late. Threats are not constitutionally-protected free speech. Words have meaning.

My sons' lives, and the lives of others, aren't worth the risk.

I'll be having a conversation with the school today. Us parents weren't notified of this at all. I first heard it on the news and then talked with my sons, who know the student by name.

Hopefully, we won't ever see this local punk turn the nightly news into his own personal YouTube like the Virginia Tech murderer. Gee, I wonder when the t-shirts with that wackjob's poses will be screen-printed. Celebrating him like that - is that constitutionally-protected free speech too? The media is only stoking the fire of other wannabe nutcases by giving that guy's pictures any airtime at all.

"Beat the record..." - that's really disturbing, as though this is now a freakshow competition for kamikaze losers.

ETC: I spoke with the principal. The conversation went something like this.

"I heard about the threats yesterday. I get automated phone calls from you folks if my kid is two minutes late to class. Why didn't I get a phone call about this threat?"

"We sent out an announcement via our listserve. Are you on it?"

"Perhaps not. So is this kid in school today?"

"Mr. Rogers, we spent 11 hours yesterday trying to confirm the threat, and no one substantiated it. We talked to many, many kids yesterday, but no one can say that they heard the threat."

"I'm not surprised. Why would they paint that 'X' on their chest? Why volunteer to be the first one shot?"

"I would hope that someone would have that integrity."

"In this case, integrity can cost you your life."

"Well, we can't just go off of rumors. What if this were your son?"

"Keep him home. It becomes my problem."

"But these were unsubstantiated rumors."

"If this kid has a history of psychiatric problems or has made threats against himself or others in the past, then I think it gets more weight."

"So if a kid is on depression medication, we should kick them out?"

"This is not just mental illness. It's mental illness with death threats. There's a difference."

"These are unsubstantiated rumors."

"I'm not comfortable with this kid coming back next week. How do you know he's safe? Especially since my sons also heard that he said this friends would do the job if he wasn't in school."

"We heard that too. We brought in those students and their parents as well. We found no substantiation for any of this."

"So this kid can just come back in? If so, I'm not comfortable with that at all. At the very least, the kid should kept out until you've had proper psychiatric evaulation."

"We're doing that. I can promise you that."

"So you'll keep this kid out of school until you know absolutely that he's not a threat?"

"Once he's had proper evaluation from a professional, be it his own therapist or some other professional, he'll be allowed back into the school."

"I'm still not comfortable. My kids' lives are in your hands. You're asking me to trust you."

"Yes, I know that."

It's really tough being a parent some days. I'm sure it's tough being a principal some days. She seemed surprised when I said that no student would step forward to put their life on the line like that. I'm not sure that she had considered that. I hope she does now.


by Brett Rogers, 4/20/2007 7:59:05 AM


Okay, I know you are upset, and I risk upsetting you further, so I apologize in advance for that, but given the atmosphere, especially now, I think any kid who had heard the threat would speak up, and that kid would be appropriately protected.

Rumors run rampant in high school. It is unsubstantiated. Boys talk big. They are having the kid looked at, which honestly is a lot, given that they are working off hearsay. How do you know that the kid ever said anything and it isn't just somebody making crap up about him because he's weird?

Don't do what the media wants you to. They are feeding into people's fears. We are finding meaning in every stupid inappropriate thing a kid may or may not have said. That's how witch hunts get started.



Posted by Bella, 4/20/2007 10:21:53 AM

Bella, I respectfully submit that you're missing proportion here. Copycats feel emboldened by a "leader" who starts the action. The loser parade only needs catalyst.

"Rumors run rampant in high school." Yes, absolutely. These usually run along the lines of "I hear you made out with so-and-so" or "I hear you do meth." Those don't threaten to end someone's life.

This is not a witch hunt. We're not searching for mass murderers here. A witch hunt is to look for kids who might crack. That's not the case with this.

I asked the principal: "Has this kid ever made threats to himself or someone else? Does he have a history of mental illness?" She responded that she couldn't get into it and violate his privacy. I don't think that these remarks are unfounded and obviously the school took it seriously enough that they kept the kid out of school and brought in a bunch of parents and the kid's friends to speak with them.

Is there understandable risk here? Or am I hyperventilating because the media fanned me into panic? Think what you want... none of my kids' friends went to school today. They know this kid. My kids are home as well.



Posted by Brett Rogers (, 4/20/2007 10:46:24 AM

To those who would look at this and dismiss it as over reacting to rumors (I have seen that several times today) I respectfully submit as well that you are missing the big picture here.

I will put it out there as RESPONSIBILITY. We as parents have a responsibility to our children to raise them to know right from wrong, as well as, keep them safe when faced with issues that are potentially dangerous.

Many times the very people that say - Oh don't over react to what is currently going on - are the very people that say - WHY DID YOU PUT YOURSELF OR SEND YOUR CHILDREN INTO THAT SITUATION WHEN YOU KNOW THAT PERSON OR GROUP OF PEOPLE MADE SUCH CLAIMS???

I have to believe that people have responsibility to know their children and family. If there are indicators (and sometimes there are not) but in this case, the same as with the VA Tech incident, there are indicators that there are issues bigger than the typical school rumors, that WE ARE RESPONSIBLE to act on them and get people the help they need and prevent possible harm to others.



Posted by Tamara, 4/20/2007 11:16:49 AM

Everyone is overreacting about this. You can't punish a kid because of a rumor. It's not right. And not sending your kids to school is just playing into the media fear game.



Posted by Jason, 4/20/2007 11:22:48 AM

Again - I repeat - there is a responsibility to deal with situations with appropriate concern for safety for your children, yourself and others.

To walk blindly without precaution - is ignorance.



Posted by Tamara, 4/20/2007 11:28:57 AM

My lovely and gracious wife enters the conversation with her mama bear claws at the ready. Ain't no messin' with the kids.

To her point and to counter Jason's, I'm not proposing that we punish a kid due to a rumor. This isn't media fear. This is local and immediate concern based on what was heard.

If there's a threat at my kids' school, I ought to take it seriously. That's never happened before and I've never felt any concern nor taken any action in the wake of other school shootings. This is different.

Tamara's right - it's about responsibility.



Posted by Brett Rogers (, 4/20/2007 11:32:20 AM

Well Brett you handled the principal much better than I would have. Their "I would hope that someone would have that integrity" comment would have pushed my "are you out of your f***ing mind button." I "hope" I win the lottery one day but I sure won't bank my financial future on it. Hoping a teenager will step forward after the events at VT this week makes me question the mental soundness of the school administration. Hope should not be a factor in the safety of our children.

Someone must have initially reported this anonymously, and for good reason. Now it is up to the school, parents, and police to make sure this kid doesn't slip thru the cracks.

Did you ask if the police had been notified and if they are involved?



Posted by Pale Rider, 4/20/2007 11:32:53 AM

lol - PR. Yeah, I was bit shocked by that one too.

"Hope should not be a factor in the safety of our chlidren." Amen, brother. They ought to frame that and hang it outside the principal's office.

There was a police officer present when I walked into the school today.

You know, I don't know how it got reported. Tamara is calling the school back to find out how it got reported and to see if a police report has been filed.



Posted by Brett Rogers (, 4/20/2007 11:42:10 AM

And you think what you like, but I would respectfully submit that you are doing the same.

"obviously the school took it seriously enough that they kept the kid out of school and brought in a bunch of parents and the kid's friends to speak with them." Maybe, maybe not. What else could they do, given current events without creating a public uproar?

I would suspect that the school kept the accused kid out for everybody's safety---including that of the kid who may (or may not, since nobody really knows for sure) have made the remarks. Given the current climate, he put himself in a certain amount of danger with his asinine commentary.

I'm sad your kids are home today for a lot of reasons. Some are sympathetic. Some would probably offend you even more than I already have by presuming to offer an opinion on something involving someone else's kids. ;-) Ultimately, my reasons don't matter because they are not my kids. I am glad the guys being home is based on your decision rather than the school's though--a point we would also probably disagree on too--but my reasoning is that it makes me happy to see a concerned parent taking steps to protect his kid--even if I think it's reactionary, I still admire and respect it.

I'll end it here because I think when we 'respectfully submit' anything to each other we're on the brink of getting pissed off and that's not my intent. Believe it or not, I was trying to be re-assuring. :-) Hope your weekend is more pleasant than the week has been...



Posted by Bella, 4/20/2007 11:49:11 AM

As always, Bella, you know that I enjoy your opinions. The debate is always healthy and you make me think.

This started out as a parent calling in after being informed by their kid about this. They know who the parent is. Obviously, the parent wasn't at the school to provide substantiation.

No police report was filed because no witnesses would step forward.

Ultimately, it's the school's responsibility to assure Tamara, my kids, and me that the environment's safe. We'll see how they handle it.



Posted by Brett Rogers (, 4/20/2007 11:58:57 AM

Wow... a bazillion comments in the time I wrote one.

PR--kids do have a lot of integrity and bravery that we don't give them enough credit for. I really do believe that if anybody really thought it was for real, they would have reported it in person, and hell, probably even signed an affadavit. I can honestly say that even then, at 15 and the height of my insecurity, I would have.

FYI--I believe there is a consistant police presence at DSM area high schools. The ones I've visited recently anyway.

I agree that to walk without precaution is ignorance, but with all due respect, to live in fear is not to live at all. Moderation is a good thing.

Punishing, persecuting. Take your pick. Either way actions are being taken toward this kid that are being based on unsubstantiated rumor, and that creeps me out a little. Check him out, okay, great. Maybe keep him out for the day while you are investigating. Make it a disciplinary matter. But if you can't PROVE anything, you can't boot him. It's a concept the nation is based on.

Jason---good to hear from you and not be totally outnumbered.



Posted by Bella, 4/20/2007 12:19:03 PM

Okay, wait a sec... to suggest that I, of all people, live in fear, Bella, is absurd. You know me, and you know that.

I'm not gonna risk my kids in the wake of a local threat my kids believe has substance, whether authorities find it to be provable or not.

And while I've written this, another threat was scrawled out on the bathroom wall at the high school. Just got notification from the school. The student was found and placed into custody with their parents.

Any relation to yesterday? Beats me. But like I said, my kids aren't worth the risk.



Posted by Brett Rogers (, 4/20/2007 12:59:15 PM

Bella - to assume that you have the knowledge that someone is dealing with something such as this out of fear is to assign yourself a power to which you do not have. You can not know what another thinks - you can however ask them. You can not know what another feels or why they do something - again you can ask. To say that keeping our children out of school is due to fear - is an ignorant claim. If you want to know why then ask. I said what was done was out of responsibility to our children.

I know the man... I see it as a responsible action to avoid lunacy in lack of appropriate leadership and protection of those that attend that school.

You are welcome to your views and love the discussion, but I wonder... if you would see the world through rose colored glasses still when it is your children that were subjected to potential danger. Would you let them waltz in with no concern of personal safety?



Posted by Tamara, 4/20/2007 1:31:45 PM

Well, I thought I did, but I'm not walking without caution, either. Dang! (If I could see you, we would be rolling our eyes at each other) Honestly, I'm glad you and the school are being careful. They are your kids. Of course you should do what you think is right. It's just not what I would do. Of course your kids aren't worth risking, I just don't think the risk is there. You do.

That doesn't make me unaware of risk in the world. But the way I figure, for every good kid that doesn't go to school because a good parent thinks there is a risk based on hearsay and vague threats, there are probably ten troublemaking kids who are figuring, "Hey! Now I know how to get them to send me home. I can get out of school! Maybe even shut it down! Or at least I can really freak 'em out. I wonder if I should scrawl in permanent marker on this wall?" who have no intention of hurting anybody and want nothing more than to be a pain in the butt and to get some attention.

Contrary to what you may have surmised, I do believe in looking for warning signs. But somebody allegedly making a stupid crack in the wake of a tragedy isn't a warning sign. Even with past treatment for mental illness it isn't a 'warning sign'. Has he killed animals? Has he stalked anybody? Does he write about abusive homes and violence? Does he have a scary website? If the answer is yes to any of the above, okay. Warning sign. If the answer is "I don't know"--well, then there's the answer. "We don't know." We don't know if we are preventing disaster or he was just talking trash. We also don't know that if we kick the kid out of school and he really does mean to hurt somebody, he won't just go to mall and shoot the kids that aren't in school.

Y'know how everybody was saying after 9/11 that not wanting to fly meant the terrorists had already won? As far as I'm concerned all of this means Cho has won.

Damn. Where's Jason!? :-)



Posted by Bella, 4/20/2007 1:57:00 PM

You don't need Jason to help you with your point making you do quite well. (no rolling of the eyes here)

I flew the first week flights were back up after 9/11. There was no threat of the flight I was on... so I agree with the thought that you can not let fear control you.

I will always err to the responsible position of keeping my children safe when there is a threat made in their immediate vacinity (school). The fact that children do not want to be named as the reporter of the threat is not unreasonable as it is shown time and time again that criminals will go to extreme lengths to eliminate those who point the finger at them. Heck - adults have a hard time doing this when they are faced with intimidation of recrimination.

So it is easy to say what is or is not a threat when you are removed from it.

For those you reference above - the ten "bad" kids- I would say... where are their parents/guardians? Why would they allow themselves to be so removed from their childrens lives to not know they are in need of help that the school is not able to give them?

While it may take a community to raise a child.... the parents/guardians are where it all starts.

Brett - KUDOS for being an GREAT parent!!



Posted by Tamara, 4/20/2007 2:18:05 PM

'You are welcome to your views and love the discussion, but I wonder... if you would see the world through rose colored glasses still when it is your children that were subjected to potential danger. Would you let them waltz in with no concern of personal safety?'

Yeeeah. I had a feeling that's where this was going.

Whether a child is 'mine' or not is completely irrelevant. I'm actually quite capable of caring about kids that aren't mine. Heck, I'm even able to care about people I'm not related to at all.

I wouldn't risk the safety of ANY child, regardless of who's it was. If I saw a real risk. In this case, I don't. You do. That's fine. I sincerely admire both of you for caring enough to take action and paying attention. But please don't assume because I didn't give birth to the kid makes it any less valuable to me.

Nobody is removed from this particular scenario. We all have kids in schools that we care about. Personally, I have clients that I care about that are in the WDSM highschools.

" Why would they allow themselves to be so removed from their childrens lives to not know they are in need of help that the school is not able to give them? "

Why indeed? I don't know, and I don't think any of the people posting here would. But if you think that it isn't the often the case, and often with no real malice or negligence intended, then frankly, it's not my world that is, as you put it, "rose-colored."



Posted by Bella, 4/20/2007 3:22:54 PM

I have to laugh -

To question why something is or is not - is not wearing rose colored glasses.

Again... ask don't assume.

I have enjoyed hearing more of your perspective today.

Have a great weekend!



Posted by Tamara, 4/20/2007 4:06:03 PM

But I said, 'if that's what you think.' If ! I didn't assume anything, I just---okay, okay. I'm stopping. We all assumed some incorrect things today. It's human, and probably inevitable in a passionate debate. On my honor, I will try to do better at deducing from what is written. Tamara, I envy and admire your Zen, if it's not too much to assume. :-)

However, I do choose to assume the weatherman is correct and it will be gorgeous this weekend---so y'all have a good one too!!

By the way, PR has been ominously quiet today. Think we scared him? :-P



Posted by Bella, 4/20/2007 4:53:33 PM

Ominously quiet here, quite vocal on the golf course! I think I scared trees today. :)

Looks like quite the discussion has been going on. I commend Brett's reaction to this. These days too many parents just assume things will be dealt with and go on with their daily lives, not wanting to be bothered. That kind of "pass the buck" mentality led to what happened at VT this week. Ask questions, be involved, challenge. His reaction seems quite logical here. His boys know the kid by name and I'd bet they have a feel for whether or not he may be troublesome. Nothing wrong at all with taking a time-out while things get sorted out. As Tamara said "KUDOS for being a GREAT parent."



Posted by Pale Rider, 4/20/2007 9:36:04 PM

The law has to come into this situation. Unless the laws in Iowa are a lot different than they are in the other states, innocent until proven guilty is the common thought. No one can be punished for rumors. Keeping this child out of school is punishment. There has to be some evidence. As a principal, I have to base my decisions on facts. However, I can also search this child each morning when he arrives at school to ensure he does not have a weapon.

We had rumors of a gun in school this week too. the rumors stemmed from many students and spread quickly. No gun though. All parties were searched and found to be victims of rumors.

It is a parents' right to protect their child. I protect all the children in my building each day by ensuring they are as safe as possible. However, no one can guarantee that they are. If the child is depressed that does not mean he is a killer. If the rumors are there, probably someone overheard something or made up something. If overheard and that student does not tell what he has heard, I hope he can live with what happens because of his neglect.



Posted by Johnnie, 4/21/2007 4:14:27 PM

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