Basalt rallies in wake of scare at middle school | AspenTimes.com

Basalt rallies in wake of scare at middle school

Tim Mutrie

Basalt leaders are trying to channel the town’s energies toward a stronger community in the aftermath of a scheme allegedly hatched by two Basalt Middle School eighth-graders to commit violent acts against two fellow students and a teacher.

“Where can we all focus our energies collectively? That’s the question,” said the school’s principal, Gary Halstead, last night. The answer: community building, he said.

“I’m encouraged by the community’s participation in creating a very proactive awareness program,” he said. “The good news is that something positive is going to come out of this.”

Halstead said several suggestions that came out of a community meeting – held Wednesday night to address parental concerns about the threats of violence at the school – will be put into action. They include holding more such community meetings and establishing a comment box that enables students to reach teachers and administrators anonymously, he said.

“[Thursday] was a much better day, thankfully, so we’re beginning to see ourselves through this,” Halstead said of the mood at Basalt Middle School yesterday. On Wednesday, students and teachers alike spent the majority of the day discussing the developments involving the two girls connected with the plot.

“They’re pretty resilient,” Halstead said of the student body. “They’re helping each other rebound.”

The scheme, which was brought to the attention of school officials Tuesday morning by the parents of one of the girls involved, was detailed in several notes the two girls allegedly passed to one another.

After learning of the plot, school officials found a BB gun in one of the implicated girls’ lockers, according to Basalt Police Chief Jim Stryker. “It’s my understanding that it was brought to the school Tuesday morning,” he said.

The two girls have been suspended, pending expulsion hearings, Halstead said. Tuesday afternoon, the parents of both girls voluntarily took them to Grand Junction for 72-hour psychological evaluations.

“Due process will occur,” Halstead stressed. “We don’t want to venture into the expulsion hearings until we get the results of those evaluations.

“And then, not only are we going to help bring these two young people back into the community, but also we’re going to work to make sure that something like this never happens again,” Halstead said.

As of yesterday, Stryker said no charges had been filed against the two girls, whose names have not been released.

“Everything is pending what the psychologists in Grand Junction say,” Stryker said. “After that, the district attorney’s office will review the evaluations and decide what needs to happen from there.”

Basalt police are working closely with school officials, as well as counselors and other professionals for two reasons: first, to investigate the incident and, second, to promote the healing process, the police chief said.

“It’s going to be a community effort, and I can’t stress hard enough the word `communication,’ ” Stryker said. “That’s what this whole thing is about, that’s what brought it to the forefront … and that’s the way we’re approaching it – to make sure everything is flowing freely between the parties involved.”

Both Halstead and Stryker said they hope to learn more about how serious the girls’ threats were from the psychological evaluations. At Wednesday’s community meeting, Halstead said the girls offered no reasons as to what inspired their alleged violent plot.

“Our interest is the community, and what we can do to help get these kids, their parents and the school back on track,” Stryker said.


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