Intervention turns youths’ lives around after incident, says Colton-Pierrepont school board president
Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 7:58 am

 

To the Editor:

March 18, 2013, Colton-Pierrepont Central School experienced what would become perhaps the most talked about, and most critiqued, incident in its long history.

Two young men, fueled by conversations on Facebook, entered Colton-Pierrepont school grounds in a car, faces covered by bandannas and brandishing a shotgun.

An alert lacrosse coach, whose team was practicing outside in one of the parking lots, immediately ushered the players into the school, and initiated a school-wide lock-down. Law enforcement was notified, and arrests came swiftly.

The two young men, Sawyer Pignona and Connor Warden, were about to have their lives changed forever. Community residents were gravely concerned, for this could not possibly happen in our school or our town. But it did.

Fast-forward to July, to the conclusion of the monthly school board meeting. Then-District Attorney Nicole Duvé, along with Superintendent Joseph Kardash, and attorneys Gary Miles and Anthony Neddo, orchestrated a meeting between the families of the accused and the CPCS school board.

It was a very tense setting, as the young men recalled the happenings of that day, and before, starting with the Facebook dialogues.

Emotions were off the chart. Parents cried, board and staff members alike just wondered why. What could have possibly made those two young adults do what they did?

Their fate was going to be discussed that night. In a first of it’s kind scenario, Duvé asked the attendees what their thoughts were on what penalties should be applied. She would then approach Judge Richards with a recommended punishment, agreed upon by the aforementioned delegation. The decision was in the court’s hands.

Fast-forward once again, to Dec. 20. As part of their punishment, Sawyer and Connor were to make themselves available to each of the 18 BOCES school districts to tell their story to students, staff, and community members.

In an assembly held for grades 7 to 12 and the general public at CPCS, Sawyer and Connor addressed the students, concentrating on the stupidity of the events that led up to the incident March 18.

Their message was clear: do not use social media as a weapon, and realize what the consequences of your actions will be. Rash decisions lead to dire results. In this age of technology, words can be as harmful as any other form of abuse. Do not overreact to bullying. Report it to one who can diffuse or handle the situation.

Both admitted to smoking marijuana before making the decision to drive to CPCS, a move that would ultimately turn to disaster.

Another court-rendered penalty they must adhere to is not having access to any establishment that sells alcohol. That means not being able to go to dinner with their respective family or friends at most restaurants. Not only did their poor decision making affect themselves, but it also has changed the lifestyles of those around them.

Both Sawyer and Connor stated that this incident, along with the counseling and punishment that followed, has resurrected their lives, their futures. Both were admittedly on paths leading nowhere.

Looking back, the meeting in July may have lasting ramifications that will never truly be known. Prison time for either would have crushed any dreams for the future. If they had sped away and never been caught, the paths that they were on would still be travelled.

Hopefully they will use this as a motivational tool not only for themselves, but for others who may be headed down the same misguided trails.

Michael Dumas

CPCS School Board president