A Philipsburg student has been arrested and charged with a felony after Granite County Sheriff Scott Dunkerson said the student made threats against schools in the town.
In a news release issued Wednesday, Dunkerson said the student, a juvenile, is charged with felony intimidation and three counts of misdemeanor assault, and is currently being held at a youth facility in another area.
No students were harmed in the incident, but the sheriff said with “recent events nationwide” all threats against any school in the county are being taken seriously.
Dunkerson told the Missoulian there was no in-person incident that led to the arrest, and that the charges are related to comments made by the student.
While the investigation is ongoing, the sheriff’s office said it has no reason to believe there is any other threat to the school.
On Wednesday, the day after a Darby High School senior made his initial court appearance after being charged with a felony for telling friends he was “going to shoot up the school,” Darby Superintendent Loyd Rennaker said another social media threat against the school was discovered. While he said additional safety precautions were taken, the school did not go into lockdown.
Extra law enforcement officers were at the school including four sheriff's department officers and Darby Police.
Ravalli County Sheriff Steve Holton said they're investigating the new threat, which was a SnapChat message referencing the threats from earlier this week and adding new threats. The SnapChat message was received by a Darby student Wednesday morning, who brought it to the attention of school and law officials.
Holton said investigators have determined the threat likely came from outside of Montana, and they're working with out-of-state law enforcement agencies to identify the suspect and confirm the location of the person who sent it.
At the end of the school day, Rennaker said there was nothing to update.
“We get out on Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m. so the students are gone for the day,” Rennaker said at 3:25 p.m. “We got all the kids home safe and there is not update at this point.”
School will be open Thursday, with what Holton calls a "significant" law enforcement presence.
On Tuesday, Darby student MacLean William Kayser appeared in court on felony charges of intimidation and assault with a weapon after he allegedly told classmates that he was going to “target” students wearing yellow shirts. Kayser also allegedly posted a picture of a pistol to Snapchat on Feb. 13 with the caption “wear a red shirt tomorrow if you want to live.”
Big Sky High School Principal Natalie Jaeger sent parents an email alert Wednesday afternoon saying two groups of students came to school administrators at the end of the day with safety concerns. One of those involved a student who received a “threatening message via Snapchat that included a picture of a weapon,” Jaeger wrote.
She said that message was sent by a student who attends a “private local high school” and indicated he was going to bring the weapon to Big Sky. Jaeger wrote that Missoula police are investigating.
Another student reported graffiti in a bathroom at the school reading “Don’t come to school Feb. 23,” according to Jaeger. That is also under investigation, the principal wrote.
Jaeger said there will be additional police presence at Big Sky on Thursday and Friday, but encouraged parents to send their children to school to “promote a sense of consistency and to allow them to focus on positive and proactive behaviors related to their own education.”
Missoula County Public Schools said earlier this week it has convened a “threat assessment team” following last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 students.
Many of the staff at the district have already gone through “active resistance” training to learn how best to respond to an active shooter situation, and Superintendent Mark Thane said it’s a priority to make sure all staff have completed it.
On Tuesday, a student at Capital High School in Helena was taken out of class after posting a Snapchat video with a pistol in it.
Superintendent Jack Copps said the district received a report about the social media post from a student and were able to review it as well. Copps said the video does not include any threats, but instead asks questions about the merits of gun ownership.
“That video simply questioned, from a Second Amendment perspective, whether a person was automatically guilty because they owned a firearm,” he told the Helena Independent Record.
Helena police said Wednesday that they spoke with the student, but do not believe there is any threat to the school or students. The department referred the incident to the county attorney’s office for a decision on if any criminal charges are warranted.
The school district has formed a committee to determine if and how the student will be disciplined.
Earlier this month a Hardin teacher was charged with hiding a gun she got from a student in her classroom. That teacher, Nora Block, remains on administrative leave pending a decision by the school board whether to retain her. The student was expelled.
Block is also charged with a felony for evidence tampering and two misdemeanors.
According to court documents, the student was searched on Feb. 2 after the district received reports he brought a gun to school. The weapon was not found right away, but another student allegedly found it and gave it to Block, who put it in her desk overnight before turning it in the next day, court records said.