Colorado Teen Suspended for Shooting With Mom Taunted as “School Shooter,” Begs to be Homeschooled
Russ Chastain 09.04.19
Loveland, CO — You may have seen this discussed here and there lately; a 16-year-old boy was visited by police and got kicked out of Loveland High School for going shooting with his mother and posting a video of some of the firearms.
What you may not have heard was that after he returned to school by means of a hastily-concluded “threat assessment hearing” that was over in five minutes due to public backlash over his ousting, young Nathan’s troubles were not over. Other students taunted him by calling him a “school shooter,” and Reason Magazine reports that “the mockery was bad enough that Nathan begged his parents to be homeschooled.”
It all started out fine: on August 27, 2019, a mother picks up her son from school and takes him to the range to shoot some guns. This they did, and all was well — or so they thought. Unfortunately, Nathan posted a short 7-second video to social media which briefly zoomed in on each of five handguns and one rifle case, with the caption, “Finna be lit.”
Personally, I find that language offensive — because it’s not English, dang it! But in youngspeak it means “About to have some fun.” Others decided it was scary and that maybe the kid was threatening someone, and reported it to a program called “Safe2Tell,” which is apparently a government-run program encouraging anybody to report bad things about anybody else.
By the time mother and son finished up at the range, police had already visited the boy’s father.
According to the police, a message was received through “Safe2Tell,” a Colorado-based reporting platform that allows individuals to submit anonymous tips to alert law enforcement of potential threats or risks. Once received, the reporting mechanism automatically triggers an immediate review by local law enforcement to assess the validity of the threat.
Loveland Police reviewed the video, interviewed the parents, and quickly determined that Nathan was not a threat.
“We thought it was done,” [his mother] tells Reason.
No such luck; Nathan was banned from his school until further notice. The school refused to listen to the mother’s explanation and instead scheduled a threat assessment hearing on August 29, telling her she would have to defend her son and his actions at the hearing.
Fortunately, word got out about this debacle thanks to an article from “Rally for our Rights.” School officials quickly ended the hearing in Nathan’s favor, allowing him back in school. A procedure that normally takes at least an hour was over in five minutes as they hastily okayed Nathan’s return to school.
After that began the young man’s taunting and harassment at school. A happy ending? Maybe, a little. But the middle of the story is what never should have happened.
Never Should Have Happened
In today’s world, it’s increasingly a bad idea to let the public know much about what you’re doing — especially when you’re doing it with guns. Just look at the moronitude that’s so rife these days; Walmart selling only select types of ammunition, and the GOP being “hopeful” that more gun control laws will soon be passed.
My message: he should never have posted the video.
A Flawed System
But the “Safe2Tell” system that was used to report his video was also flawed, says Reason. School officials claimed they were not officially informed by police that Nathan was not a threat until 18 hours after the fact.
Founded in 2004, Safe2Tell was created in response to the Columbine High School shooting in April 1999, in order to ‘provide an anonymous venue for parents, students, teachers, school administrators, and law enforcement to share information,’ according to its website. Safe2Tell sought to break ‘the code of silence’ that leaves possible risks and threats unreported, as well remove the stigma that surrounds being a ‘snitch.’
They also say the program has been known to cause more harm than good.
According to the Colorado attorney general’s office, which oversees the program, use of Safe2Tell has steadily increased each year. During the 2018–2019 fiscal year, Safe2Tell recorded 19,861 “actionable” tips — 4,400 more than the previous year… The most frequently addressed issues include suicide (3,668), drugs (2,164), and bullying (1,871).
Despite the high volume of calls concerning suicide, Safe2Tell is not the ideal resource for those struggling with self-harm or depression. Colorado’s Department of Human Services also operates Colorado Crisis Services, a hotline that focuses primarily on mental health issues. The crisis line — which received 173,547 calls, texts, or chats last year — operates separately from Safe2Tell. Confusion among students, not only regarding which service they should use, but also the existence of either in the first place, is common, according to mental health professionals.
This confusion has resulted in incongruous responses to sensitive issues. Safe2Tell has been criticized for its inability to appropriately address the complicated situations occurring on the other end of the phone line. Sarah Davidson, research director for Mental Health Colorado, shared an anecdote with The Colorado Sun about a troubled student, who called Safe2Tell in need of mental health assistance. “She needed a crisis line,” said Davidson. Instead of deploying a mental health specialist to assist the troubled student, police were dispatched to her home.
Bringing law enforcement into the picture also increases the risk of “swatting,” or intentionally filing false reports with law enforcement as a means of harassing people. Of the total number of tips received last year, Safe2Tell estimates that 2.4 percent, or roughly 470 incidents, were intentionally false reports. (Sadly, Safe2Tell has earned the pejorative nickname “Safe2Swat” among Colorado students.)
This is yet another case in which people try to “do something” to combat crime such as murders in school, but end up “undermining the civil liberties of the falsely accused or, worse, dropping the ball when responding to an actual threat.”
What ever happened to common decency and common sense?