A Desert Mountain High School assignment that calls for students to act out and videotape a mock crime will no longer be required after the staged incidents resulted in police calls the last two years.
Scottsdale Unifi ed School District spokeswoman Marijke Van Fleet said Monday that school offi cials decided to eliminate the assignment that led to the arrests of fi ve people, including three girls and a 75-year-old grandmother, last month.
Teacher David Mietzner’s popular criminology class will remain part of curriculum, however, she said.
“The assignment will not be done again,” Van Fleet said. “The district has taken the appropriate corrective action, and that’s all they’ll say. The assignment became an issue again this year with the Scottsdale Police Department, and that’s why it was eliminated.”
The Jan. 21 incident involved a mock shooting and kidnapping in north Scotts- dale. It caused a neighbor to call 911 after he heard shots and screams and saw what he believed was a real crime. As the neighbor looked out his window, he saw David Seay, 18, who was using an Airsoft pistol, place one of the girls in the trunk of a car before he drove off, according to a police report.
The incident marked the second straight year Scottsdale police responded to what they believed was a crime in progress but turned out to be a project from Mietzner’s class.
School board members made aware of the district’s decision to eliminate the assignment by the Tribune Monday had mixed feelings about the outcome.
“It sounds like eliminating the assignment makes sense,” said board member Jennifer Peterson, who has two daughters attending Desert Mountain but neither has taken the class. “I would guess eliminating it is appropriate since the police have been called out two years in a row.”
School board President Karen Beckvar called the move a decision for the principal, school administrators and teachers.
“I don’t think that the board should tell the teachers how to run their classroom,” Beckvar said. “That’s an administrative function. They may come up with a different assignment that’s better, I don’t know.”
All five of the people involved in this year’s convincing performance were arrested on charges of causing a disturbance and Marilyn Miller, the grandmother of one of the students who filmed the mock crime, also was arrested on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Scottsdale police issued Seay and Miller citations, according to Scottsdale City Prosecutor Caron Close. They are scheduled to make their initial appearance on the charges in Scottsdale City Court on Feb. 12, Close said. No information was available about the three sophomore girls.
Those involved in the incident could not be reached for comment.
Mietzner, who was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation by the district, returned to work Jan. 29 after officials at the high school and district office reviewed the assignment, Van Fleet said. Mietzner, who holds a bachelor of science degree in justice studies from Arizona State University, has been teaching criminology at Desert Mountain for more than four years, according to his attorney, David Rubin.
Citing district policy for not commenting on personnel issues, Van Fleet wouldn’t say whether Mietzner would be further disciplined. However, Rubin said he believed that the district conducted a complete investigation and review of the assignment, and didn’t see any basis for further disciplinary action.
Mietzner is OK with the assignment being eliminated and is confident that he and the district will replace it with another assignment intended to fill the same objective and goals, Rubin said.
“(Mietzner) is known to be an innovative teacher who tries to stay on the cutting edge, but he’s a team player as well,” Rubin said. “I believe this has been a learning experience for everyone, and the appropriate steps have been taken to eliminate the assignment.”
Last year, police responded to what they believed was a carjacking in the Desert Schools Credit Union parking garage in north Scottsdale after a passing motorist saw what he believed was a real crime and called 911. Students, who were using Airsoft guns — including one that resembled an M-16 assault rifle — were surrounded by police who brought an end to their production. No one was arrested in that incident.
When Mietzner was contacted last year for comment, he said he believed the incident inside the parking garage was blown out of proportion and that he told students to stay out of sight when filming the assignment.