Tucumcari Middle School students face penalties for weapons violations

Tova Fruchtman:Quay County Sun

Three Tucumcari Middle School students this week were expelled or suspended for bringing weapons to school in separate incidents.

Lt. Chuck Newman of the Tucumcari Police Department said all incidents are still under investigation and details were incomplete.

One student was arrested Monday morning and charged with unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon on school property, according to a police report.

Newman said he is still investigating whether the weapon the student was carrying was a toy gun or not.

Two other middle school students were arrested with knives on Tuesday.

Although the incidents coincided with the deadliest school shooting since Columbine in Minnesota on Monday, Newman said there is no connection between the two.

Tucumcari Middle School Principal Roberta Segura agreed. She said one of the incidents occurred Friday, but wasn’t reported until Monday.

“We didn’t feel threatened or that we were in any danger, but we do have to follow procedure and that’s what we did,” she said.

Segura said she believes the student and his grandmother who said the gun was a toy laser gun. A knife was never found on one of the students who allegedly had one and the other said he brought the knife to threaten another student (not to use it), Segura said.

Two of the students were suspended for the rest of the school year, and one was expelled, as federal and state statutes require.

The students are allowed 10 days to hold a hearing to see if there is reason to wave the punishments, but two students have already waved that right, Segura said.

According to state regulations the students who were suspended can re-enroll in another state school, but the student who was expelled must wait until next year for an opportunity to enroll any state school, Segura said.

Segura said she hopes these incidents will help parents and students understand how serious the school takes weapons regulations and violations.

“They’ll know that toy gun or not, you’re going to pay the consequences,” she said. “We are following up on anything that comes up.”

Superintendent William Reents had praise for his staff’s handling of the incidents.

“I think my staff does a very good job weeding things out and going through them and doing the proper procedure of how situations are to be handled,” he said. “The principal had it under control.”

Only one other student has been expelled for possession of a weapon on school property in the three years Reents has been in the city, he said. That student was not readmitted to the school.

Reents said the public school is an educational facility, not a social institution, and keeping weapons outside its walls is not just an issue for school officials but for the entire community.

“Look at what happened in Minnesota. … I don’t know what goes through some of these children’s minds,” he said.
“Where did they get the weapons, and how did they get them out of the house?”