Student arrested over reported school threat

by Kate Evans

A Berkeley Springs High School student was arrested on the evening of Wednesday September 11 after school officials received information after school hours about a possible threat at the high school from a parent. The situation was turned over to Morgan County Schools Prevention Resource Officer Deputy Kevin Barney right away, who immediately conducted an investigation into the complaint.

Barney said that after an investigation he determined that there was probable cause for an arrest. The male student who is a minor was taken into custody and charged with terroristic threats.

At no time was any student in any danger, Barney stressed. The complaint was turned over to him after school hours and the situation was dealt with before school opened the next day.

Barney said that the incident is still under investigation. The Morgan County Prosecutor’s Office is handling the case right now and will decide the best course of action for the case. He said no further information can be released to protect the identity of the student. The school system is also taking additional actions.

Barney emphasized for clarification that the charge of terroristic threats is very broad and that it doesn’t matter what someone’s intent was or if it was a joke. The threat itself is the issue.

Corporal Barney and Morgan County Schools Superintendent Kristen Tuttle both said that their own investigations did not indicate that bullying had been a factor in the incident.

Barney said that their goal is to keep students at all schools safe. When students get in trouble, they want to get them to the point where they can return to school, get back on track and get back to their education.

Barney said that this “is not acceptable behavior in any form.” He noted that “Morgan County Schools will not tolerate any threat or suggestion of threat to our students, staff or schools.”

School response

A generic post was placed on Facebook to notify the community about the incident and phone calls were issued to a select group of parents in coordination with Tuttle, Barney said.

This was posted on the Morgan County Schools Facebook page last Wednesday evening and was shared by other county schools on their websites:

“After school today, we received information about a possible threat at Berkeley Springs High School. Law enforcement was immediately contacted and an arrest was made this evening by the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department. We all take threats to student safety very seriously and acted with an abundance of caution. Students were never in any danger. We look forward to seeing your student in school tomorrow.”

Superintendent weighs in

Superintendent Tuttle said that they received a call around 4:00 p.m. last Wednesday that led them to contact law enforcement and Corporal Barney, who immediately initiated his investigation. A student had come home from school and told their parent about the potential threat and the parent contacted the school system. Tuttle said she appreciated that they came forward and called them.

“If you hear something or see something, say something,” Tuttle said of a possible school threat.

A felony

Tuttle said that the student has been suspended and that they are considering further options they have to take. They are following all policies and procedures under West Virginia Department of Education’s Policy 4393 Expected Behavior in Safe and Supportive Schools. Under this policy, terroristic acts or false information about a terroristic act or hoax terroristic act are considered Level 4 behavior-a felony.

Tuttle noted this type of behavior can’t be tolerated and that they have to look out for everyone’s safety. Intent is hard to measure and that “whether there was intent or not, we have to take these things very seriously.”

Tuttle stressed that families should talk with students and tell them that all threats will be taken seriously and how those consequences can affect a student’s future.

“We want our students to be a positive force in our schools and our community,” she said.