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Reflecting on scary events, children and teachers gather for support

Nacyshla Mehring, a kindergarten teacher at Butte Central Elementary, is surrounded by her students as she wipes away tears after an impromptu assembly Wednesday afternoon in which school officials and police officers addressed children and teachers about the recent threats to the Butte school. 

Butte Central preschool, elementary and middle school students resumed classes Wednesday, a day after local police arrested a 13-year-old boy for allegedly emailing a pair of violent threats that kept students on lockdown Monday and home from school Tuesday

“Our first emotion is we are relieved to be back in school,” said Butte Central Schools Director Don Peoples Jr. “But there are still feelings of anxiety and stress among all of us.”

According to Central Middle School Teacher Callie Boyle, Monday was hard on both staff and students. During the lockdown, they received no information about what was going on — only that it wasn’t a drill.

“The kids did a good job being brave,” Boyle said.

To help ease any lingering stress or anxiety from Monday, the school held an assembly and ice cream social with the Butte police department’s school resource officers Wednesday afternoon. Students and faculty prayed together, and administrators spoke positively about both the school and about law enforcement's responses to the email threats.

Peoples encouraged more prayer, while Principal Susie Hogart called school Administrative Assistant Sue Burt the “unsung hero” for her actions when she found the threatening emails.

“We want to give the impression of safety, that everything we did this week was in the best interest of our students,” Peoples said.

The first threat of a school shooting led the school to go on full lockdown for over an hour before resuming classes. The second threat of a bomb led administrators to cancel school completely Tuesday. Sheriff Ed Lester said the department’s Internet Crimes Against Children investigator was able to link the second email’s IP address to the arrested juvenile.

The boy’s name will not be released, and it is unknown if he is a Central student. However, Peoples said if he did attend the middle school, he would not be allowed back. He was cited for criminal incitement and disorderly conduct and was transferred to the Great Falls Juvenile Detention Center, police said.

Peoples said the Central schools plan to learn from this experience by promptly implementing more structural safety measures, like further improving doors and windows. The elementary and middle school recently put in a new video surveillance system and improved doors, Peoples said, but there are other things they want to fix as soon as possible.

“Although I felt our response was excellent, we are coming up with an action plan for improvement,” Peoples said. “You don’t realize your vulnerability until you go into lockdown.”

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