Tip leads to lockdown of local schools

by nathan oster

Greybull school buildings were placed on lockdown status for about 30 minutes on Tuesday morning after the high school received a tip from the office of Big Horn County Attorney Michelle Burns that a student might pose a threat to the schools.

The student, who was not identified by authorities, was found in a classroom at GHS a short time after the lockdown began and no disciplinary action against him will be taken, said Supt. Barry Bryant.

While the student was given the option of staying in school, he chose to accept school officials’ offer to take the rest of the day off.  He was released from school into the care of his mother, according to Bryant.

In a conference call that also involved her deputy county attorney, John Frentheway, Burns said she had received an anonymous tip from a confidential source that a student had stolen some weapons and that the same student had a potential complaint with the school and/or some members of the school.

“The circumstances surrounding theses allegations are still an ongoing investigation and we can make no further comment,” said Burns.

Frentheway initially relayed the information to GHS, then to the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office, which dispatched the Greybull Police Department.

Chief Bill Brenner was the first to arrive on scene.

“We showed up, investigated and found that there was no danger … that the information was inaccurate,” said Brenner, who characterized it as “a misunderstanding.”

Brenner added, “Due to the circumstances, we all thought it best that he take the rest of the day off. It appears the student did nothing wrong.”

Bryant said he was at the elementary school when he received word of the call that had been placed by Burns’ office to GHS.  The district was immediately put on lockdown status. An announcement, saying this is a lockdown and not a drill, was made in all district buildings. All the doors were locked and restrictions were placed on the movements of students.  The district also stopped the movement of students from Riverside High School to GHS for classes.

The lockdown began at 8:10 a.m. and ended around 8:40 a.m.

While it turned out to be nothing major, Bryant said, “We appreciated the heads up” from the county attorney’s office.  “In instances like these, we’d rather over-react than under-react.”

Frentheway said the attorney’s office was erring on the side of caution as well.  “How solid the tip was, we couldn’t be sure,” he said. “We felt that even though it could be challenging for everyone to shut the schools down, until we found out there wasn’t a risk, we felt it was a step that needed to be taken.”

He cited cases across the nation in which public officials either ignored potential threats or didn’t take them seriously enough — and then regretted their decisions when tragedy struck their communities. “We weren’t going to take that risk,” said Frentheway.