Officials said the man had no intent of doing harm with the weapon and decided not to inform parents.
In this time of heightened awareness and caution toward guns in or around schools, the question "what if" certainly looms large.
What if the school resource officer had not spotted the man? Why was he in the school parking lot in the first place?
What if a person with deranged thoughts and motives were to show up at the school? Would the school's pre-planned emergency procedures work in a real-life emergency?
These are questions likely running through many parents' minds after hearing about the incident.
An equally important and troubling question on the minds of many is "what else?" School and law enforcement officials said there had been no other such unreported incidents this year, but should anyone have to ask that question?
Aztec Superintendent Kirk Carpenter said the incident was not reported to parents, students some of whom witnessed the incident or the public because it appeared the man had no malicious intent. "We are not trying to hide anything or downplay anything. But the way things happened there was never an imminent threat to students," Carpenter said.
We believe that to be true.
However, we also feel that parents had a right to know about the incident immediately.
Schools are thought to be a safe haven for children. Parents need to be able to trust that school officials are doing everything possible to provide a safe and secure environment for students, teachers and staff. Thanks to the good work of administrators and teachers in our local school systems we also believe sound safety procedures are in place.
But the decision not to inform parents about the incident we believe was a violation of the trust bestowed upon school officials. The statement made by Superintendent Carpenter should have been delivered immediately after the man was arrested. Such a reassuring message would have minimized any doubts, which are corrosive to trust.
When students are at risk of being in such a potentially threatening situation, parents have the right to know. The parents then have the obligation to decide what course of action, if any, would have been best for their children attending the school. It also provides a "teachable moment" for parents and their children to discuss at home.
Hearing about the incident a month after it occurred leaves doubt in the minds of the public. By not reporting the incident one wonders what else may have happened in previous years that has not been disclosed. Openness and full disclosure should be standard operating procedure with school officials in any situation involving the safety of students.
We are thankful to the Aztec High School staff and Aztec police for bringing this incident to a quick and uneventful conclusion. Most importantly we are grateful that no one was in danger.
Situations like this will always evoke the question "what if". But never, ever should it leave parents asking "what else" when it comes to trust and openness in issues regarding their children.