HAMILTON — A Stevensville High School student faces a felony charge of intimidation after allegedly making threatening statements toward other students and staff, according to Stevensville Police Chief James Marble.
A juvenile male was arrested Friday, less than five hours after the school learned of the alleged threat.
“This morning, our administration was notified that statements were made by students potentially threatening other students," Stevensville Public Schools Superintendent Bob Moore said.
At 8:30 a.m., school officials found three students who were suspected of being involved and turned them over to law enforcement for questioning. One of those students was later charged with the felony.
Moore said the school administration takes all potential threats seriously, and was quick to add that at no time were any students or staff members in danger.
“We’re working with law enforcement, and they say this was a pretty confined incident,” Moore said.
High school students were not allowed to leave campus without special permission after administrators learned about the allged threats. However, the school was not put into a lockdown status.
Closing the campus was done “out of an abundance of caution,” Moore said.
“At lunch we have an open campus, but today we decided that wasn’t in order based on the circumstances,” Moore said. “We told the students they would have to stay unless they were released to go home by a parent.”
Jim Floyd, whose daughter is a senior in Stevensville, said he was alarmed when he received an automated phone call stating there was a threat toward individuals and the entire Stevensville High School. His concern grew after he tried to contact the school and his phone call automatically rolled into voice mail.
“I called my daughter’s cell, told her to go to the office and I will pick her up in five minutes,” Floyd said. “Even when I got there no one was saying anything. It was frustrating for me as a parent, especially after the horrible shooting in Florida that left 17 dead, then there’s all these copy-catters now.
“They should be able to say ‘Your kid is safe, don’t worry about it.’ When I came into the school, the phone at the office’s front desk was ringing off the hook. That’s going to happen when you have these automated calls.”
Moore said the school tried to stay in front of the rumors by notifying parents, saying in the news release provided to them that no students were in danger.
“At the time, that was the information we had,” he said.
The alleged threat comes during a tumultuous week for students across Montana. On Monday, MacLean Kayser, an 18-year-old Darby senior high student, was arrested on felony charges after he allegedly told friends he was going to “shoot up the school” and posted links to the Florida shooting in which he allegedly wrote “coming soon to Darby.”
On Tuesday, a student at Capital High School in Helena was removed after posting a Snapchat video with a pistol in it but didn’t include any threats.
Darby students were roiled again on Wednesday, when a Snapchat post out of California referenced earlier threats and added new ones. The school wasn’t put on lockdown, but additional law enforcement officers were on site.
That same day, a juvenile Philipsburg student was charged with felony intimidation and three misdemeanor assault counts after allegedly making threats against schools in town. Also, Missoula's Big Sky High School was put on lock-in after threatening graffiti was found in boys' and girls' school bathrooms. In a separate incident involving Big Sky High, a Snapchat message allegedly included a picture of a weapon sent by a student at a private area high school that indicated he was going to bring the weapon to Big Sky.
On Friday, UM Western in Dillon was evacuated after receiving a bomb threat. Law enforcement cleared the campus around 12:45 p.m. It was opened again at 1 p.m.
Floyd said all of this activity makes him wonder about school safety.
“With all these school shootings, we’re at a tipping point, wondering whether we should home school my daughter, who is a senior with only a few months to go,” Floyd said. “Do we keep her home to be safe, or let her go to school and get her diploma? I have two younger kids going to Lone Pine school, and we’re on the borderline with them too.”