Should Texas Teens Have Been Suspended for Not Reporting Student With a Gun?

Image by WOKANDAPIX from Pixabay

"If you see something, say something" isn't just a suggestion at Pioneer Technology and Arts Academy in Mesquite, Texas. It's an order. 

Last month a student at the school brought a gun to campus and showed it to several students before one of them alerted administrators. The teen was ultimately shot by arriving officers after he started to raise his arms while holding the gun in his hands, but survived with what was described as minor injuries.


The 16-year-old has been charged as a juvenile in the case, but he's not the only one who's being punished in connection with the incident. 

NBC 5 has learned that at least three students have been suspended for not allegedly reporting their classmate brought a gun to school, according to the parents of two affected students.

Marta Fonseca asked NBC 5 to hear directly from her 15-year-old daughter about what happened that morning and why she reacted the way she did.

Gabriela Rodriguez, a PTAA 9th grader, says she showed up to class about 20 minutes late when she noticed the boy move to sit next to her.

“He decides to just open his backpack and start flashing the gun at me,” she said. “He said he was going to do it one day so today was that day. He was going to do it and how he’s only going to be going after the English teacher. That everybody should just leave the classroom after.”

Rodriguez says she initially thought the gun was fake.

“I sat there shocked because I didn’t think it was a real gun,” she said. “I sat there for like five minutes just thinking this isn’t real, this isn’t real. This isn’t happening.”

Rodriguez says the bell rang a few minutes later so she left and headed to her next class without alerting any adults.

“Yes, I could’ve tried but at this point, it’s just my mind thinking: ‘Would this kid turn on me’ and I get hurt instead of anyone else,” she said.


Now, I can understand being afraid of the teen in the moment, but what about when Rodriguez got away from the kid? Why didn't she tell the teacher when she got to her next class instead of keeping quiet knowing that a student was planning on killing her English teacher? Was she just going to say nothing until she heard the sound of gunshots? 

I'd argue that Rodriguez had an obligation and a responsibility to alert an adult about the threat to a teacher; maybe not a legal one, but certainly a moral obligation to try to prevent harm to others. She is, however, a kid, and I'm not sure that suspending her from school is the teachable moment that it's intended to be. 

Asked if she has any regrets about her decisions that day, Rodriguez said: “Honestly, I have zero regrets. Yeah, maybe I should’ve done this differently, but at this point as long as I’m safe and others are safe, which thankfully we are, I’m ok with this.”

That English teacher is safe despite Rodriguez's actions (or inactions), not because of them, which the teen still doesn't seem to understand. 

I'm not gonna lose any sleep over these students getting suspended for not alerting authorities about an armed classmate on campus, but if the goal is to encourage kids to speak up when they see something, a better approach might be to help them to understand the consequences of staying silent. After all, if Rodriguez hadn't talked to her fellow students about seeing the gun, it's doubtful the school would have even been aware of what she did and didn't do. I worry that the primary lesson students will learn from these suspensions is to keep their traps shut; not only to adults who can act on that information, but with their peers as well. 


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