Two students suspended for making threats

Middle school classmates report boy who said he was 'going to pull a Columbine'

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS Two Steamboat Springs Middle School students have been suspended for five days for making threatening statements.

The two boys started serving their suspensions Thursday and each must also undergo a "violence risk assessment" conducted by a local psychologist, said Sandy Hall, the school's second-year principal.

"This was a middle school student talking big," Hall said. "But we can never take anything like this lightly."

Hall said she was not "at liberty" to divulge the boys' ages or grade level.

The threats by the two boys came at a time when local school officials are on heightened alert because of a school shooting in California Monday.

Charles Andrew Williams killed two students and injured 13 others in Santee, Calif.

Authorities have found out that Williams told friends who attended Santana High School of his plan, but none of the friends came forward to tell authorities.

Friends told authorities they had written it off as one of Williams' frequent pranks.

"Anytime there is an incidence of school violence, we become more alert because there have been copycats," Hall said.

On Wednesday afternoon, three middle school students standing in the lunch line did not take any chances after they heard comments made by two boys.

One boy was overheard saying he was "going to pull a Columbine," Hall said.

The boy's friend was then overheard repeating a line from the movie "Liar, Liar," saying he was going to "pull out his 9 (mm) and bust a cap," Hall said.

"Fortunately, our kids took the threats seriously," she said. "I'm proud of our kids of coming forward and speaking up. They did the right thing. We are always telling the students to tell someone if there is a threat."

After the threats were made, the Routt County Sheriff's Office was contacted to investigate. On Wednesday, sheriff's deputies conducted a threat assessment of the comments made by both boys.

The deputies evaluated the threats based on the students' ability to carry out what they said they were going to do, said Undersheriff Dan Taylor.

"These were adolescent comments," Taylor said. "We believe they made the comments with no serious malice or intent, but these are things you can't say in school."

The Sheriff's Office, which had an officer at the school for most of the day Thursday, will not be seeking any criminal charges against the two boys, Taylor said.

"Our intent is not to charge kids for being kids," he said.

The students were notified of the threats in their first period classes Thursday morning. Student reaction ranged from concern by some and by others who brushed off the threats, Hall said.

The school made available its guidance counselor and school psychologist to any students who wanted to talk about the incident, she said.

Due to the threats, the school followed the policy it has in place when dealing with threats.

The two boys were pulled out of class and interviewed. After talking to the students, school administration officials suspended the boys for five days and ordered they undergo a risk evaluation. They both were released to their parents.

The students will not be allowed to return to school until the results of the evaluation are available, Hall said.

The evaluation will assess the students for warning signs that have been identified in other cases of school violence, Hall said.

Because of the amount of research that has been done on school violence in recent years, there are clear indicators and warning signs that can be picked up, she said.

"We hope the evaluations are complete in time, so we don't have to suspend the students for more than five days," she said.

Hall said both students made a "dumb mistake" and described them as "pretty good kids."

"They have had scrapes with the office, but there aren't too many students who haven't had scrapes with the office," she said.

School administration and faculty then tried conduct business as best they could.

(Gary E. Salazar is a reporter with the Steamboat Springs Pilot/Today.)

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