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Published: Saturday, December 12, 2015 @ 6:27 PM
Updated: Monday, December 14, 2015 @ 7:39 PM
VANDALIA — UPDATE @ 7:34 p.m. (Dec. 14): An expulsion hearing is set for this week for a seventh-grader accused of threatening to bring a gun to school and shoot a Muslim classmate, school officials said Monday.
Vandalia-Butler City Schools officials praised students who reported the threat.
“We’re really proud of the students who came forward, actually,” said Principal Shannon White, Morton Middle School. Last week, students told school officials they heard the seventh-grader use derogatory terms to refer to his classmate.
The student also called the classmate “Son of Isis” and “Terrorist.”
Charges of ethnic intimidation and aggravated menacing were filed and the student was taken to the Montgomery County Juvenile Justice Center. He also faces a 10-day suspension with a recommendation for expulsion, according to Vandalia-Butler City Schools.
“It’s definitely a serious incident, and it’s one that we take very seriously,” White said. The district will not tolerate the threats, the principal said. “The safety of our students is our top priority, absolutely.”
Vandalia resident Joe Pittman said he felt bad for both students and blamed political rhetoric for stirring up resentment.
“We’re causing a war on the home front when it’s overseas. There’s just no reason,” Pittman said.
White said the school works to encourage diversity and prevent bullying. One effort is “Redo Day,” in which all seventh-graders spend a day focusing on tolerance and understanding.
“The biggest point of the day is to really break down those barriers and make them feel like we’re all in this together,” White said.
UPDATE @ 9:10 p.m. (Dec. 12)
A seventh-grader accused of threatening to shoot a sixth-grader faces expulsion in addition to the criminal charges filed against him.
Vandalia-Butler City Schools released a statement tonight about the incident, saying district officials are actively working with police. Administrators met with the student’s parents and processed paperwork calling for a 10-day suspension with a recommendation for expulsion. The expulsion hearing would be held at a later date, according to the statement.
The seventh-grader made the threat against a sixth-grader, a district official said tonight. The accused is listed as a sixth-grader and the victim is listed as a fifth-grader on the Vandalia Police Department’s incident report.
According to the district, a middle school student overheard a threat of physical harm on school property and reported it to a staff member. Following protocol, the threat was reported to a building-level administrator. The police were called, and the student was taken into police custody.
“First and foremost in our minds is the safety and security of our students,” Superintendent Brad Neavin stated. “It is important for our students and their parents to understand we take them at their word when they make these threats. We will treat all threats seriously, taking immediate and decisive action to protect the safety and welfare of our students, staff and community.”
FIRST REPORT (Dec. 12)
A sixth-grader threatened to shoot and kill another student, calling him a terrorist and “son of ISIS” because he is Muslim, according to a Vandalia Police Report released today.
A boy made the threat to a fifth-grade boy around 2:30 p.m. Dec. 7 aboard a bus after it left Morton Middle School. However, Vandalia police were not called to the school, 8555 Peters Pike, until around 10 p.m., and the witness and victim didn’t talk to police until well after midnight, the report stated.
The victim, called in to the police station early Dec. 8, said the sixth-grader called him “towel head” a “terrorist” and said he was responsible for bringing down the twin towers because he is Muslim. The older boy also called him “the son of ISIS” and asked if he was going to bomb him. The victim said he did not hear the gun threat, but said he believed the older boy would harm him and other students, according to the report.
A student who reported the incident to the bus driver told police the sixth-grader said he was going to bring a .40 caliber gun to school the next day to shoot and kill the fifth-grader. The threats were recorded on surveillance video with audio of the incident, the report stated.
The victim’s parents said the school notified them something happened on the bus, but did not provide details.
The sixth-grader also was later called in to the police station. He admitted using racial slurs during an argument because the younger boy never wants to sit down on the bus and plays his music too loud. He told police he did not recall saying anything about a gun, but said he must have if it was recorded. The sixth-grader told police he hunts with his dad sometimes and was familiar with firearms, according to the report. He was arrested and charged with ethnic intimidation and aggravated menacing. Before he was taken to the Montgomery County Juvenile Justice Center, he wrote an apology letter at the police station, telling the younger boy he was sorry for what he said and for scaring him, the report stated.