GFPS addresses process for threat investigations

The two students involved in the Oct. 5 incident at East Middle School who have both been cited with disorderly conduct, were suspended from school, pending an administrative investigation to determine the next course of action.

Tom Moore, Great Falls Public Schools superintendent, said that in this case, a first student was identified as making a threat to use a weapon against other students and was suspended pending an investigation and threat assessment. In the course of the separate but collaborative investigations from GFPS and the Great Falls Police Department, another student was found to have responded with a threat and was also suspended and cited.

Two students charged in connection with Oct. 5 incident at East Middle School

Moore said the district regularly deals with threats by students in schools and they investigate them to determine whether it’s a plausible threat or concern.

He said if and when threats are determined to be plausible, district officials work to isolate the students and ensure they are supervised and don’t have access to any weapons or items related to the threat.

[Read: GFPS policies related to student discipline here and here]

The district conducts threat assessments to determine the risk a student poses to themselves or others, with a team of officials, teachers, counselors, parents and more.

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If it’s determined to be a threat, the district can call an administrative hearing within 10 days of the assessment to bring evidence to the administrative panel and the student and their parents or representative can present their side and the panel makes determinations on a course of action. That course of action can include a range of options, from counseling to a more restrictive school environment to being referred to the school board for an expulsion hearing.

The administrative hearings are private and are not disciplinary hearings, Moore said. Only the school board has the authority to expel students and Moore said there have been very few of those cases in recent years.

In the case of the East Middle School incident, Moore said the district was still completing threat assessments on the two students and he didn’t know yet how the situation would unfold.

Moore said the district deals with a constant flow of students saying inappropriate things to each other, but “we cannot ignore it when we hear these things. We spend a lot of time investigating, and more of it’s kids saying stupid stuff…but we treat them all like they’re potentially a big deal. We have to, in this day and age, take all of this seriously.”

He said there were instances years ago of threats being made on social media by students at the high school level that had GFPD working round the clock to investigate, get warrants and determine whether those students had the means to carry out their threats.