Violent plot uncovered at Basalt school
Two eighth-grade girls at Basalt Middle School who were allegedly plotting to kill two fellow students and a teacher were turned in to school officials and authorities Tuesday morning.
The girls, juveniles whose identities were not made public, have been suspended indefinitely. Tuesday afternoon, the two were sent to a Grand Junction facility to undergo a 72-hour psychological evaluation, school officials said at a community meeting last night.
Parents and peers apparently tipped off school officials to the plot.
Two other students – one boy and one girl – were initially thought to be involved in the scheme, which was detailed in notes the students passed to one another.
The boy, who has also been suspended, was discovered to have been passing notes that were violent in content, but his actions were apparently not linked to the activities of the two girls, said Principal Gary Halstead. “We’ve determined that it’s not connected to the nature of letter writing that was going on between the two girls, but it was serious, and we’re taking it seriously,” he said.
A third girl may have been involved in note passing with the two girls, but Halstead described her as “a helper” who tried to stop them.
“Last week, this young person went to the other two and said, `Hey, this isn’t right,’ ” Halstead said.
A search of the school building Tuesday turned up a BB gun, and last night, school officials indicated that it was found in the possession of one of the two girls.
About 100 parents and concerned community members gathered at last night’s meeting, many of whom were visibly upset.
“Has anybody determined whether these threats were serious?” asked one audience member.
“There was no grand, detailed scheme, like you read about with Columbine,” Halstead replied, referring to the Littleton school that was the site of a shooting rampage by two students. “But [the threats] were significant enough to warrant, in our minds, further evaluation in Grand Junction as to their intent,” he said.
When asked what may have been the girls’ motive, Halstead offered no answers.
“They’re not giving reasons,” he said. “That’s one of the scary things that moved us to seek more professional help in evaluating them, because we need to figure that out.”
After school officials learned about the scheme Tuesday morning, the implicated students’ parents were called, as were Basalt police, and the three individuals targeted in the two girls’ letters were notified.
Near the close of the school day, Halstead convened a schoolwide assembly to clarify the facts of the incident, he said.
“The kids were scared,” Halstead said. Yesterday in school, much of the day was spent discussing the incident in classrooms, with guidance from several counselors.
One parent asked Halstead, “Do we have an elevated potential for violence here?”
Halstead admitted that the school has had “some incidents of violence” and he spoke specifically about a recent fight which initially involved two boys – a Hispanic and an Anglo – but escalated to involve many more. A professional mediator has been contracted to work through any differences the two groups may have, Halstead said, adding that he doesn’t feel any racial tension at the school.
Halstead urged parents to continue to try and build healthy, open relationships with their children.
“So many times we find that troubled kids are troubled for a reason,” he said. “That’s what we all have to go after – all of us. We’ve got to talk to each other, we’ve always got to be sharing with each other.”
Many parents suggested that perhaps the school should consider heightened security, like metal detectors and/or security guards.
Other parents’ comments focused on the underlying issues that apparently led the girls to devise the violent scheme. Most agreed that further discussion, followed by decisive action, needs to occur.
Detective Steve Wilson, of the Basalt Police Department, said authorities have had no prior contacts with the two girls.
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