WINDOW ROCK – President Russell Begaye is urging parents and teachers to support their student’s emotional and mental health needs as the national increase in school violence is impacting the Navajo people in traumatic and life-altering ways.
“It’s concerning that our own children are making these types of threats within our own school systems,” President Begaye said. “If a parent, sibling or student hears that anyone is making such a threat, please immediately report this to law enforcement or a school official.”
President Begaye is also calling upon local leaders to reach out to their communities to provide support to school children and those affected by school violence.
President Begaye’s statement comes the day after a Facebook post circulated, threatening that a shooting would take place Wednesday, Feb. 28, at Tuba City Junior High School (TCJHS). According to a notice posted on the Tuba City Unified School District’s Facebook page, Superintendent Dr. Harold G. Begay canceled school on Wednesday “for the best interest and safety of all our staff and students.”
On Monday night, Navajo Nation police officers were dispatched to investigate the area around TCJHS, said Chief of Police Phillip Francisco. The Navajo Nation Department of Criminal Investigation was also brought in to investigate the threats.
According to Chief Francisco, two juveniles identified in connection with the threats were arrested and are now in custody.
President Begaye warned students of the serious nature of these threats.
“We don’t see these as idle threats,” he said. “Initiating these types of threats will destroy a young person’s future. These charges get very serious. Within the Navajo Nation, we will prosecute these crimes to the fullest extent possible.”
Across the United States, heightened rates of school shooting incidents have taken place. On Feb. 14, a school shooting claimed the lives 17 students and faculty at a high school in Parkland, Florida. On Feb. 27, a 13-year-old girl was arrested in Kirtland, N.M., for allegedly claiming there would be a shooting at Kirtland Middle School.
The Office of the President and Vice President encourages parents to talk about the serious nature of these incidents with their children and to lend support to their students’ concerns.
“Our schools have counselors who are available to talk with our students and work out any issues they might be facing,” President Begaye said. “There is no shame in reaching out for help and we need to encourage this in our youth.”
The president said that the Navajo Nation will continue to diligently protect its children and all Diné people.
“Our children shouldn’t be frightened to go to school, and neither should our educators,” he said. “It’s imperative that we reinforce our schools as safe zones by investigating any threats being made against our school systems and children.”