- School officials at Harbor Lights Middle School flagged
a Holland, Michigan boy as potentially dangerous because the 12-year-old
suggested to a teacher that one way to prevent school shootings would be
to arm instructors.
- Derek Loutzenheiser, a model student who had such good
grades that some teachers recommended he be tested early for a popular
standardized pre-college performance test, made his comments in early March,
after being asked by a social studies teacher what he thought might make
kids safer in school.
- Derek had been asked to participate in a classroom discussion
about "school shootings and safety," said the sixth grader's
father, Tim Loutzenheiser.
- "My son simply stated that his opinion was that
he would feel safer if some of the adults at the school were trained and
allowed to carry firearms," Mr. Loutzenheiser told WorldNetDaily.
- His reply caused him to be "flagged" as a potential
violence risk by teachers and school administrators, who then contacted
his parents to suggest they meet with the school's "Hazard and Risk
- "My wife and I were in disbelief when they (school
officials) telephoned us and told us that's what they wanted to do,"
Loutzenheiser said. "We asked, 'Do you have the right kid?'"
- In resulting talks with school officials, Loutzenheiser
said he learned that his son "often spoke favorably about the First
and Second Amendments, but the comment he made to his Social Studies teacher
was the one that triggered this action."
- School officials told the couple that because of Derek's
comments he should be separated from the other students and forced to enter
the school's "Mentor" program, where he would be studied by an
adult supervisor who would monitor Derek's thought processes.
- "We were told that this would be in the best interest
of my son, and by doing this the school would not have to involve Social
Services," Loutzenheiser said. "We refused."
- At that point, the couple contacted an attorney in nearby
Grand Rapids, Michigan -- one referred to them through the National Rifle
Association's Institute for Legislative Action. The couple has also been
told by a representative from the Rutherford Institute, an international
legal and educational civil liberties organization, that "they would
be willing to take on this issue."
- Loutzenheiser said when he and his wife, Shelly, arrived
for the Hazard Team meeting Mar. 8, "We were outnumbered 7 to 2."
He told WorldNetDaily that he wanted to make a good first impression with
the members, so he shook each member's hand and introduced himself.
- He also told them he had brought along a tape recorder
and would be taping the proceedings since none of the legal organizations
that said they would represent him could send a representative to the meeting
on such short notice.
- "My wife and I both saw a transformation from 'smugness'
... to looks of great concern on some of their faces," he said.
- "What was odd about the purpose of this whole meeting,"
said Loutzenheiser, "was that three of the team members were Derek's
teachers, and each of them said they didn't know there was any 'situation'
with him. That got me to thinking, 'Then why are we here?'"
- However, and though "team" members denied it,
the elder Loutzenheiser said he believes teachers and school administrative
personnel began to form a bad impression of his son when, in January of
this year, the sixth grader refused to sign a "Red Letter" vow
of peace to celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday.
- "The letter, which was written by the principal,"
Loutzenheiser said, "asked the students to take an oath to turn in
their friends for suspicious activity, to vow to never defend themselves
if attacked, and something to the effect of never to use a gun or other
weapons. Derek simply told the principal, 'I'm not signing that.'
- "I think that's what got him 'noticed' by some of
the administrative staff at least," he said.
- Of the meeting with "team" members, Loutzenheiser
said, "We got right to the point and determined that the charges against
my son are without merit. They all assured me that he is a wonderful student,
gets straight A's, and because he is a little more advanced academically
(at their suggestion he took the ACT test and scored very well) they feel
he may need an 'adult' to talk to about issues."
- Loutzenheiser admitted he didn't know what team members
were implying about having Derek "talk to an adult about issues."
He added, "We were able to determine that because my son knows and
understands political and Constitutional issues so well, that he often
speaks in terms not typical of a 12-year-old, and we should be assured
they have no issues with this."
- The couple believes Derek's Social Studies teacher was
the impetus for the inquiry.
- "She felt concern when Derek stated -- when she
asked -- that he would feel safer if some of the adults would be trained
and have access to firearms at school," said Derek's father. "Because
this teacher felt this [was an] irrational threat, she spoke to other 'team'
members who are also Derek's teachers."
- The couple said they discovered that there had been a
series of similar misunderstandings involving some of the things Derek
had said in school -- none of which were threatening or dangerous.
- One teacher, said Loutzenheiser, stated that he heard
Derek speak of taking the hunter's safety course -- which was offered through
the school -- and that Derek sometimes spoke about how he liked hunting.
- Another teacher said that in her class, where his son
helps write the school paper, he was tasked with reviewing a video game.
The teacher, he said, felt that the game might contain violence but didn't
feel "concern" until "after she spoke with the 'team.'"
- One of the vice principals, the couple said, also felt
Derek may need some "mentoring" because he was "attacked
by three older students last September, in which Derek fought back and
deterred his attackers on school property," Loutzenheiser said.
- "They (school officials) wanted to reinforce how
understanding they were, in light of the fact that the school has a zero
tolerance policy -- no fighting even in self defense -- and how Derek was
not punished in any way for defending himself," Loutzenheiser said.
- However, his wife Shelly had inquired of teachers and
school officials just a day before the meeting occurred, and "there
were no issues yesterday, but they seemed to remember some today,"
- "We also asked them why, if these problems were
so terrible, no one had bothered to pick up the phone and call us before
it came to this," said Loutzenheiser.
- More disturbing to the couple was the school's constant
alluding to "a list" -- ostensibly the same "list"
their son, Derek, was on, albeit briefly.
- "No one really explained what this 'list' was,"
Loutzenheiser said, "but from the sound of it, if you raised anyone's
eyebrows at the school -- for any reason -- you made this 'list.'"
- Jerry Klomparens, principal of Harbor Lights Middle School,
told WorldNetDaily he could not discuss cases or incidents involving specific
children. However, he spoke briefly about the school's "Mentor Program"
policies, and said they were only administered after school officials obtained
permission from a student's parents.
- "We believe any educational processes must first
come from parents," Klomparens said. "This program is only designed
to help parents" meet special needs of certain students.
- The principal explained that Harbor Lights uses the mentoring
program to "match students who have particular interests up with teachers
or adults (who are volunteers) who have similar interests."
- When asked about the so-called "list" that
Loutzenheiser mentioned, Klomparens reiterated that it was school policy
"not to discuss the status of our students." He also said it
was possible that some errors may have been made in the past in explaining
the "mentor" program to some parents.
- "It's not a real formal program," he said,
adding that sometimes teachers suggest students whom they believe would
benefit from it. Other than having mutual interests, Klomparens said neither
teacher nor adult volunteer mentors have received any special training
- But the Loutzenheisers remain unconvinced.
- "Each of these people on the 'team' probably had
no issue with Derek, but by virtue of assembling together and talking,
they were able to feed upon each others' concerns, no matter how small,
and allowed them to grow," said Tim Loutzenheiser. "We're convinced
that Derek will now be placed under a microscope for observation more than
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