Sheridan High School  (File photo)

Sheridan school’s threat message irks parents

“No credible threat” says law enforcement

SHERIDAN – Parents of students at Sheridan schools received an email and voice mail message at 3:12 p.m. Sunday, alerting them to a potential threat at the school.

 “Sheridan School Parents,” the message said, “We have had incidents of a threatening nature over the weekend that have come to our attention at the school. Students have made statements of a nature that would lead others to have concerns about their safety. This has led to calls to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office to be investigated by the police. There were 2 separate incidents and to this date the police have deemed the events to be significant, but not eminent dangers to the students or the staff at the school. If you should have questions about these events please call the school at 842-5401 and speak to Mr. Stout or Mr. Wetherbee.”

On Monday morning, Madison County Undersheriff Phil Fortner explained the situation, noting that since this was a juvenile investigation, he could not release a lot of details.

Fortner said there was one alleged threat and two separate instances that caused the concern: One was a verbal “thing” about song lyrics. Another was a group Snapchat message. (Snapchat is a social media platform where pictures and messages are available for only a short time before they become inaccessible.)

Fortner said the threat was not specific to any person or the school.

“We took the investigation seriously,” Fortner said. 

Deputies interviewed the students and parents of students involved and came to the conclusion that it was not a credible threat.

Fortner said no charges will be filed, and that as of Monday morning, everything was “Code 4.”

Law enforcement, Fortner said, was at the school Monday morning, and would be back periodically as long as they are needed there.

Parents who received the message were not happy and worried for their children’s safety.

One parent, who asked that her name not be used because she’s a “vocal mom,” and had already antagonized the school administration enough, called the message “cryptic” and said it inspired “chaos” among parents.

“Who is going to answer the phone at the school on Sunday,” she aksed?

She said her husband called the sheriff’s department to try figure out if it was safe to send their kids to school Monday morning, and was told to call the school – a dog chasing its tail scenario.

“We had incidents over the weekend and the rumors were flying,” Sheridan Superintendent Mike Wetherbee said about the threat. “Some were credible, others were not credible. I met with my team, and we thought it best to send out the message.”

When you’re doing that you have to stay within the FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, an act that protects student education records privacy), with no names.”

“The major problem with the message was that it was vague,” Wetherbee said. He also noted that there was a problem with the school district phone lines and the message ended up being sent twice, once to the elementary parents, once to the high school parents.

The bottom line, Wetherbee said, was that the two events were investigated by law enforcement and there was no credible threat. Wetherbee hoped the message would be “We got this, we still have this,” he said, “but that’s not how it was received.”

“If I wasn’t 100 percent certain – 100 percent – that the school was safe for students, I would have shut it down. I would do this any time,” he said. 

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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