A Senior High student charged with raping five teenage girls has been removed from the school as School District 2 launches its own investigation into how the matter was handled.
The suspect, Brayden Jaymes Pond, 17, is being educated in an "alternative setting," SD2 Superintendent Greg Upham said Tuesday.
The district's investigation into Pond's conduct and the district's handling of the student will be done by an investigator contracted by the district's lawyers.
"It's looking at everything," Upham said.
School districts are legally obligated to educate students, though they can expel students in limited cases.
Pond allegedly raped five teenage girls, some as young as 14, during 2016 and 2017, according to charging documents filed Aug. 14. He is charged as an adult.
Four of the cases were opened by police in late January. Three of those were sent to the county attorney's office for charges on Feb. 20, and one was sent on March 22.
A police investigation was opened into the fifth case in May, and the case was sent to the county attorney's office for review in early August.
It's unclear what kind of communication occurred between the school district, police officers assigned to school, and police officials.
Upham said that district administrators weren't aware of the police investigation until an administrator heard about it and district officials asked a school resource officer for more information on Aug. 13. Upham said the officer told officials he couldn't provide any details.
SD2 hadn't taken action involving the case until removing Pond from Senior after he was charged. Pond previously attended Skyview High. It's unclear exactly when he switched schools.
"We didn't have any information to take any action," Upham said.
But Billings Police Department Lt. Brandon Wooley said that some kind of communication occurred between school resource officers investigating the case and building-level school administrators shortly after the cases were opened.
“They had had that communication with our officers,” Wooley said. “The school resource officers aren’t going to release details of the investigation for the most part. I’m sure that the staff was aware of the general nature of the investigation.”
Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said that he didn't have any contact with the school district, and he was unsure if his staff did. But his office usually wouldn't.
“Oftentimes, my office would rely on the SRO (School Resource Officer) to notify the proper school district official or officials in school,” he said.
Like the police department and SD2, the county attorney's office has no policy governing communication between schools and law enforcement.
It's also unclear if Pond was ever detained; Twito said that he was not currently detained and he believed that he was not at any point.
“I can’t tell you definitely why or why not,” Twito said. "A multitude of factors are involved in that."
Among those, he said, are the time between when a case is charged and the alleged offense. The last rape Pond is accused of occurred in May 2017, according to charging documents.
There's also variability between cases, and variability in the time between their submission to prosecutors and when they're charged.
Twito said he couldn't speak to Pond's case, but generally, “I can just tell you that there’s a lot of things that go on with charging cases. We take our time, we have follow-up done."
He also said that prosecutors are more cautious if the accused is a juvenile or doesn't have a criminal history.
He said that the time between Feb. 20, when three cases were sent to his office, and Aug. 14, when they were charged, was "not unusual."