Libby police identify students behind violent message at Libby Middle/High School

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By JOHN BLODGETT

The Western News

Law enforcement has determined there is no danger to the community following the discovery last Thursday of a violent threat written on a wall in a Libby Middle/High School boys room stall.

“This was a successful attempt by a small group of students to disrupt the school,” Libby Police Chief Scott Kessel wrote Monday in a news release. “The investigation will continue until all those that participated have been charged.”

Kessel did not disclose the students’ names or the content of the message, which Superintendent Craig Barringer said was found by a student using the bathroom Thursday after school.

The boy photographed it and showed it to his parents, who reported it to the school, Barringer said.

Noting that the school district considers every threat credible, he said it was immediately reported to law enforcement.

Though they took the threat seriously, officials did not believe it warranted closing the school, canceling homecoming activities or notifying parents.

“We did not make this decision light-heartedly,” Barringer said. “We did not want to create a sense of panic when there was no need for panic.”

Nonetheless, some alarm ensued Sunday afternoon when word of the threat hit social media. According to Facebook posts, students had been discussing it on the Snapchat app when one of them told a parent, who then started a discussion on a popular Facebook community page.

The post soon generated hundreds of comments, many from parents who said they were angry they hadn’t been told about the threat and planned to keep their kids home from school on Monday.

Barringer said Monday that about half the entire Libby School District student body had indeed stayed home, with kids either not coming to school at all or eventually being picked up by concerned parents.

Barringer said he understood parents’ concern and supported them doing what they believe is in their children’s best interest, but said that the school district would never put students or staff in a position of harm.

“If we thought that it was a threat that we didn’t have a handle on, we would not have school,” he said.

In his news release, Kessel outlined some the “many things” Barringer said went on behind the scenes to ensure student and staff safety.

The Libby Police Department “immediately implemented extra security for Friday’s homecoming game and Saturday’s homecoming dance while the threat was being assessed,” Kessel wrote.

Kessel also called in the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and requested additional resources from the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation and the FBI.

“The Libby Police Department will continue to maintain a presence at Libby schools for the remainder of the week at the request of the school district,” he wrote.

School officials on Monday scheduled a meeting with parents for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the school’s Ralph Tate Gymnasium.

Barringer said officials would discuss the investigation, explain the reasoning behind not notifying the public, and then open the floor to questions.

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