A law enforcement investigation is underway after a Jackson high schooler threatened other students.
“Obviously, our highest priority is student and staff safety,” said district spokeswoman Charlotte Reynolds. “So whenever there is any sort of threat, we take it very seriously.”
The suspect, a 14-year-old male, is a student at Jackson Hole High School. He made threats via email on Oct. 11; those threats were reported to the Teton County Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 15. He was then suspended.
“He was suspended from school pending an investigation, and our hope is we can get him some help,” said Undersheriff Matt Carr. “We are investigating some threats made towards a student and the reasons behind it.”
The student has since been checked in by his parents to a voluntary crisis placement at Teton Youth and Family Service’s Van Vleck House due to a history of mental health problems. The parents are cooperating with law enforcement and said they are worried about their son.
Carr declined to go into the nature of the threats, except to say that they were directed at classmates and that the suspect admitted to making threatening remarks toward one person who he said was harassing him.
“The initial investigation indicates there was bullying going on,” Carr said.
Teton County school policy says suspensions can last a maximum of 10 days — meaning it would be over Thursday unless the Board of Trustees steps in.
According to policy, administrators can suspend students, but only the school board has the power to expel a student for up to one calendar year, extend the suspension period for more than 10 days or enter into a stipulated expulsion contract with a student.
A student can be expelled or suspended for willful disobedience or open defiance of the authority of school personnel; willful destruction or defacing of school property during the school year or any recess or vacation; torturing, tormenting or abusing a pupil or in any wamaltreating a pupil or a teacher with physical violence; the possession, use, transfer, carrying or selling a deadly weapon within any school district vehicle or within the bounds of the school district; any behavior that the board decides is clearly detrimental to the education, welfare, safety or morals of other students; and any other conduct or behavior prohibited by law.
Any student recommended for expulsion has the right to a private hearing per Wyoming statutes. If a student’s presence endangers people or property or threatens to disrupt the academic process, immediate removal from school may be justified but a hearing must happen no later than 72 hours after they are removed from school.
Carr did not know if an expulsion hearing was in the works, and school district officials said they couldn’t comment on specifics. Student disciplinary histories are part of their confidential record, and access to the record is limited to authorized school personnel, the student and their parents or legal guardians. Any other access requires a subpoena or written permission from the parent or legal guardian.
School resource officerDrew Roundy said he’s following up on the bullying claim.
“The school resource officer mentality, at least for the sheriff’s office, is that we are law enforcement, an informal counselor and a mentor,” Roundy said. “So even though bullying is not necessarily a crime, we still try to intervene and make the bullying situation better.”
School policy addresses harassment, intimidation, bullying and retaliation. People who engage in any of those behaviors are “subject to disciplinary action up to and including suspension or expulsion and/or referral to law enforcement authorities.”
The school district unveiled an initiative this year called TCSD Kind. It serves as an antidote to everything from kids being mean to each other to more habituated patterns of bullying. It’s meant to be a proactive approach and give students positive models of behavior to emulate.
“The idea is that as a school community, we want to reinforce and support that idea of being kind to one another,” Reynolds said. “And that means smiling at somebody in the hallway, saying hello, but also really trying to replace those unwanted behaviors with how we would like students to treat each other and react to one another.”
That includes “making an effort to be thoughtful of your words, thoughtful of your actions and recognize that both of those have impacts on other people,” Reynolds said.
That fits in with the school district’s broader social-emotional curriculum, multitiered systems of support and restorative justice efforts.
“All those initiatives and areas of focus tie into this idea of supporting students, providing them the resources and information and the supports to behave kindly towards one another, towards their teachers and for staff to behave kindly to one another,” Reynolds said. “It’s really a whole district community effort.”
— Emily Mieure contributed to this report