Charges that administrators ignored warning signs of violence from student killer Karl Pierson need to be investigated comprehensively and objectively.
Right off the bat, we were suspicious when an Arapahoe High School official pooh-poohed the fact that the door was propped open when killer Karl Pierson got in unchecked, replete with his shotgun, machete and Molotov cocktails, and murdered Claire Davis, Dec. 13, 2013. “He would have gotten in anyway,” or words to that effect, was the response.
This did not inspire confidence that the school was responding appropriately to the killing. Chillingly, it reminded us that the Aurora theater killer also got in due to a propped door. Clearly, if it were so easy to enter buildings armed, the killers would not look for propped doors.
No one wants to turn the knife and accentuate the pain that the entire Arapahoe school community is feeling. No one wants to engage in a blame game. No one wants to second guess. At the same time, it is impossible for a comprehensive and objective investigation of the incident to leave every last person involved pain-free. That is in the nature of the incident.
People want the facts of the incident without apologetics; want to know whether there is room for significant improvements in security; and want everyone in a position of authority, in and out of the school, with the power to prevent a repeat to face squarely the facts of the past and the needs of the future.
Among the critical facts of the past are charges that only confirm our suspicions about school administrators not facing the errors made at the school before the shooting. We have revelations that warnings signs of violence at the school were offered by security guards there, and that these signs were ignored.
Specifically, the Denver Post reports that Cameron Rust, a security guard at Arapahoe High School, said:
“Karl Pierson was a known threat for a long time. He should have gotten the necessary help and appropriate resources should have been involved. The fact of the matter, people are dead. The decisions that were made did not help to prevent the shooting.”
According to Rust, this is not 20/20 hindsight. He said, according to the Post, that he and other security officers had reported to administrators that Pierson was sitting alone in the cafeteria and looking at pictures of guns, that he drew “questionable” symbols on his math tests, that he had outbursts of anger and that teachers “can refer to many other incidents that were reported to Administration regarding Karl.”
Rust said that the day before the Dec. 13 shooting, he [Rust] personally escorted Pierson into the school’s attendance office after Peirson had an altercation with a teacher. Rust said that he and other security guards found Pierson in the cafeteria, visibly upset. “I don’t think he received the help that he needed due to simply a lack of action,” Rust said.
Rust claims that Pierson was not the only troubled student at the school who has been ignored.
The school’s administration’s response to Rust’s charges? Rust has been placed on administrative leave; and his claims, apparently, have been attributed to trauma.
Earlier, Rust reports, he was told by administrators not to put things in writing. He was also told, he says, “We will read about that kid [Karl Pierson] in the news someday; it just won’t be at Arapahoe.”
Littleton Public Schools Superintendent Scott Murphy said that people should wait for the investigation of the sheriff. Fair enough. Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson confirmed that Rust had been interviewed. We look forward to the sheriff’s report, and hope that it will be comprehensive and objective, with the chips falling where they may — that it will not be twisted as a result of pressures from various sides.
One thing is already perfectly clear. Mental illness is insufficiently recognized, acknowledged and dealt with; and treatment for mental illness is insufficiently funded and accepted.
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