Shooting of Taos County buses in Española must not be shrugged off

Such acts against our kids need to be dealt with swiftly and seriously; vigilance the new requirement

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The worst we can be was demonstrated last week when, in two separate events, activity school buses from both Peñasco High School and Questa High School were hit with what police ascertained to be pellets from an “air soft or pellet gun” that caused damage to each of their respective passenger windows while in the Española area Oct. 3.

This was an egregious act.

Surely, in this day and age and in this climate, it would be terrorizing to be shot at – no matter the caliber of slug thrown. According to the Española Police Department, the Peñasco activity bus was targeted while traveling to a restaurant to grab a postgame meal. Shortly after this event, a Questa activity bus carrying the co-ed soccer team, which was traveling back from Santa Fe, was hit by a same-sized pellet. It is not known if the two occurrences are connected. However, the similarities of each shooting bear an uncomfortable coincidence.

The two Taos County schools took measures to inform the families of the occurrences and provided resources to help their respective student populations cope with the situation. The gravity of the moment needs to be acknowledged, for at no time should our kids have to be ordered to get down and lay flat on their bus seats or the floor to avoid getting hit by gunfire or any kind of projectile. The plethora of what-if and could-have-been scenarios is too scary to think about and must be a motivating factor as justice is sought. The plain fact that there was damage to school bus windows by any sort of gun should infuriate Española city leaders, prosecutors and citizens who faithfully send their children to a game or any school activity on a bus.

Given that one of the two buses involved was unmarked, it could have just as easily been from anywhere, including Española – returning home late from an away game or from a field trip. The targeting of buses, knowing what their cargo is, should prompt a huge reward and an all-hands-on-deck response from the various sectors of law enforcement to find and prosecute this perpetrator or these perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law. The attempt to harm or maim in this way carries a possible fourth-degree charge of aggravated assault. In a situation such as this, the shooting could constitute a third-degree felony – and more severe penalties due to the fact that an assault was carried out on a school employee. This also could be considered child abuse.

This extraordinary event – coming on the heels of the foul shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada – has already brought an inordinate level of nervousness in athletic directors, coaches, bus drivers, parents and kids traveling through Española for scheduled events in points south. Taos Middle School (TMS) athletic coordinator Nando Chavez recently collaborated with athletic administrators from Española to provide a police escort for the TMS football team visiting Española High School for a game Oct. 5. Chavez remarked that this was done to “allay the concerns of parents who were sending their kids on the Taos bus.”

“After careful thought and consultation with the [Taos] middle school principal, Mr. Alfred Cordova, we thought it was important to take this action to reassure our football parents,” said Chavez, who is contemplating options to avoid the area in the future. “This causes us to think about logistics and specific travel schedules.”

Given the frequency of travel to and through Española’s main thoroughfare for all the teams from Taos County traveling to towns scattered throughout the state – and vice versa for teams coming to the north to play us – it might seems like an overblown expectation for the city of Española and/or Río Arriba County to escort buses passing through town. But maybe not. These are our kids and coaches and bus drivers, and they deserve safe passage. Could this mean that our teams take the high road through Truchas instead of the low road through Española? Should parents caravan alongside the bus and have camera phones at the ready? Should we consider canceling games in Española or avoid eating at Española restaurants?

Consider this solution: Find those responsible for this nonsense, hand down the harshest penalties and send the message that we will not tolerate harm directed at our children – ever. The opportunity to travel out of town, whether for sports, school activities, field trips or whatever, should be fun and memorable for all the good and learning that a road trip can produce.

And while we’re at it, why don’t we all use this unfortunate event to create some positive changes with regards to our love of sports and our hometown teams? Let’s vow to become true fans of the games our kids play in and reject rabid fanaticism. Let’s vow to get to know our competitors and game officials a little bit better. Let’s vow to stand in solidarity to reject violence in sports, and let’s vow to look out for each other here in the north.

Again, this was an egregious act and must be dealt with in the most swift and serious manner.

“Sports Talk” is a periodic commentary by Arcenio J. Trujillo, Taos News sports editor. If you have an idea or topic for coverage in “Sports Talk,” contact Trujillo at sports@taosnews.com and include your name, contact information and your sports news ideas.

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