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Student charged after alleged on-campus altercation at Piedra Vista High School

Parents were not notified about short lockdown, school says
Kaden Hunter was arrested on three charges after a May 2 altercation with school officials at Piedra Vista High School. (Courtesy San Juan County Adult Detention Center)

Piedra Vista High School student Kaden Hunter was arrested May 2 by Farmington Police Department on three criminal charges, after an alleged assault and battery that prompted a preventive lockdown.

According to police reports, Hunter became “extremely angry verbally and physically” when he was asked a second time to stop talking in a classroom.

Hunter reportedly slammed his backpack on the floor, breaking his school-issued laptop. When a teacher about fluid leaking from the pack, he “became even angrier” and picked up a student desk.

The teacher, standing in front of Hunter, asked him to put the desk down. Hunter told the teacher to “get out of his way” and began swinging the desk back and forth after the teacher moved to the side. The teacher later said she feared Hunter would throw the desk at her.

Hunter threw the desk into a whiteboard, denting it and damaging the desk and part of a mounted projector. He shouted an expletive and left the room, and the teacher radioed administrators.

Police reports did not provide a timeline or account for Hunter’s whereabouts for between the time he left the classroom and arrived in the school’s administration office.

Roberto Taboada, spokesperson for Farmington Municipal Schools, was unable to comment on the specifics of this situation.

The reports stated that when the school resource officer entered the administration office, Hunter threw his sunglasses at an assistant principal, then shouted an expletive and shoved an assistant principal into a closed door and entered the hallway after pulling his wrist from the SRO’s grasp.

The SRO, identified only as “Fernandez,” urges staff to not to attempt to stop Hunter “for their safety.” Hunter was later asked to leave the building, and he eventually left through the front entrance.

The police reports do not state how long Hunter remained in the school after leaving the administration office.

The report stated that Fernandez “was informed by school staff members that Hunter likes to walk off his anger” and “followed him around the school’s property exterior until other units arrived.”

According to the report, three police officers arrested Hunter on a fourth-degree felony charge of battery upon a school employee, misdemeanor assault upon a school employee and criminal damage to property worth over $1,000, a fourth-degree felony.

Hunter was taken to San Juan County Adult Detention Center May 2 and released May 4.

When asked about lockdown communications, Taboada initially said a notification was sent to students’ parents and guardians on May 2, but later confirmed that no announcement had been sent.

“The May 2 ‘preventive lockdown’ was a contained situation that didn't interfere with the regular school schedule, and no call was made based on that criteria,” Taboada said in an email.

In his email, Taboada referenced the March 23 fatal shooting at Animas Valley Mall as precedent for not sending out a notification. After reports of the shooting, “three of our schools were put in a preventive lockdown. … There was no threat to the schools. No phone calls to parents were made either.”

However, as reported by The Journal March 23, and confirmed by cellphone records, Farmington Municipal Schools sent two notification calls to families at 11:24 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. March 23.

Mar 23, 2023
One killed, one injured in shooting at Animas Valley Mall in Farmington

Piedra Vista High School Principal Kelly Thur also confirmed that notifications were sent out in regards to the shooting at the mall March 23 because there was a potential “lack of safety” in that situation.

“A lot of people have scanners, a lot of people have social media, so we wanted to make sure we didn't help spread that in that situation,” Thur said. “The situation in early May was a little different.”

Taboada confirmed that a preventive lockdown May 2 lasted six minutes. He added that the May 6 lockdown was meant to prevent him from reentering the school.

Thur said the lockdown was an effort to “manage movement” during an isolated situation and “once the movement was managed, we lifted it.”

According to Thur, the decision to forgo a notification was based in part because the short lockdown did not prevent students from moving to their next class at the scheduled time.

“We didn't feel like … safety was an issue for anybody,” Thur said. “Once that event occurred, there was no other safety concerns. It was more about just making sure that the movement was restricted, and we could keep it isolated.”

After the initial altercation, Thur said staff was notified that the school was in a state of “a restriction of movement,” which was intended to keep the hallways clear and students in classrooms.

He added that preventive lockdowns are used for situations that could become emergencies. They manage movement while attempting to avoid disrupting the normal education process.

Thur said that altercations of this severity are unusual and that school administration typically deals with behavioral or others disruptive issues on campus when possible, according to “procedure based on board policies and handbook and state law.”

Thur said school staff uses all resources available to them to “work with kids (to) give them an opportunity to change behaviors before they do make a bad choice.”

“Sometimes we're unable to do that,” and sometimes situations outside the school environment that they are not aware of make it difficult for staff to effect behavior change with students, Thur said.

Law enforcement is typically contacted when a situation “could be considered a crime,” according to Thur. Such situations may include in-person or digital harassment, controlled substance violations, assault or battery.

Because of Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act restrictions, the district was unable to release information on whether Hunter was allowed to return to classes after being released from the detention center.