UPDATE: Battle Ground boy expelled after threats

Schools reopened Thursday morning

By Susan Parrish, Columbian Education Reporter and Emily Gillespie, Columbian Breaking News Reporter



Student, 13, arrested in B.G. school threats

Student, 13, arrested in B.G. school threats

The 13-year-old Battle Ground boy who was arrested yesterday after threats closed six schools has received an emergency expulsion from Chief Umtuch Middle School, said Gregg Herrington, district spokesman.

After his arrest Wednesday afternoon, the boy was released to his parents’ custody.

Classes resumed today at all district schools. Chief Umtuch Middle School is at 700 N.W. Ninth St., Battle Ground.

Under the emergency expulsion, district administrators have a maximum of 10 days “to look at the issues and make the best decision as we can,” Duane Rose, the district’s interim superintendent, said. “There’s a whole gamut of options. We are looking out for the whole district. What’s best for the boy and what’s best for the school,” he said.

“I know there were anxious parents throughout the district,” Lynn Hicks, the district’s interim deputy superintendent said.

However, the school had no phone calls from anxious parents the day after the incident, and it had fewer absences today than a typical day. Of the 607 students, 28 students were absent, said district officials.

“We’re fully back to normal,” said Dave Cresap, principal at Chief Umtuch Middle School.

The school has both a full-time counselor and a full-time psychologist, Cresap said. Today a counselor from Battle Ground High School arrived at Chief Umtuch and offered to help.

Jason Arrowsmith, a school resource officer, divides his time between five schools, and typically spends most of his time at Battle Ground High School. This morning as students arrived, Arrowsmith stood in front of the school greeting students. Arrowsmith spent all day today at Chief Umtuch and will spend all day Friday at the school.

“He was talking with students and making sure the kids knew they were safe,” said Rose.

Early today before students arrived, Cresap met with his staff to debrief and to talk about the district’s decision to close five schools as a result of the student’s threats.

“This is one of our students,” Cresap said. “There’s a mixed feeling in that there’s relief that the problem has been solved, but sadness that one of our students was in trouble. I was trying to put into perspective that this is still our student. We’re going to follow all due process in determining his future placement.”

“We are sorry for the child and the parents of that child and the things they’re potentially going to go through,” Hicks said.

On Tuesday, the student posted two messages on a school website, Dear Amicus, set up by students, a teacher and the school counselor as a forum for students to pose questions anonymously. “Amicus” is Latin for “friend.” Messages were screened by school staff before they appeared on the website with answers written by student peers.

“The website served us well,” Cresap said. “It was a grass roots effort on behalf of students in a writing class.”

Students who posted about difficult issues, such as suicide, “hopefully were able to get some help,” Cresap said.

Since December 2012, two students have committed suicide.

In his first message, the student threatened to commit suicide. In the second message, he threatened to harm a specific teacher and the school with explosives. A teacher screening messages on the website found the threats. The anonymous nature of the website made it difficult for website administrators to determine who had written the messages. Battle Ground Police were contacted.

“Once Battle Ground Police got involved, they moved very quickly,” Hicks said.

The Dear Amicus website was left up during the police investigation, but after the suspect was arrested, the district deactivated the website. The district will reevaluate the website and determine whether it will make it live again, Cresap said.

Battle Ground Police Department is “tying up the loose ends” of the investigation, Lt. Roy Butler said, by finishing a search of the boy’s computer and writing reports.

Butler said he hopes to send the case to the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office by Monday morning. Police are recommending the boy be charged with felony-level harassment.

Once that office has the case, a charging decision could take anywhere from days to weeks, said Kasey Vu, the supervising attorney for the juvenile prosecution unit.

Vu said that upon a conviction, a felony-level harassment charge has a standard sentence for juveniles which includes up to 30 days in juvenile detention, up to 12 months of community supervision, up to 150 hours of community service and a fine of up to $500. The sentence, however, would depend on the juvenile’s criminal history, Vu said.

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