Student’s threat results in suspension

12-year-old boy wrote threat, then deleted it, prompting search for weapons.

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A 12-year-old at the West Tisbury School allegedly typed a threat on a classroom message board, prompting a search for weapons and a suspension. — Rich Saltzberg

A West Tisbury School student was suspended after school officials found an apparent threat posted, then deleted, from a message board during a school assignment, according to police.

The 12-year-old boy “typed something very stupid,” West Tisbury Police Chief Daniel Rossi told The Times, but declined to elaborate. The incident happened two weeks ago as students were working on a journal. The chief described the incident as a “general, idle threat,” though he said police did search the child’s home for weapons. None were found, and no charges were filed, he said.

“The kid was immediately suspended from school, taken to [Island Counseling Center] for evaluation, and subsequently put in a re-entry program at the school,” the chief said. Had the school been locked down or evacuated, charges would likely have been sought, he added.

In an email sent to parents nearly a week after the incident, West Tisbury School Principal Donna Lowell-Bettencourt described the posts as “various inappropriate and concerning statements.”

Students sometimes don’t understand the repercussions of their actions, Chief Rossi said. “In 2017, you can’t do that,” he said.

Principal Lowell-Bettencourt told The Times via email that the student’s threat was “not directed toward any one student,” and, like Chief Rossi, she termed it an “idle threat.”

“When we became aware that this student had done something inappropriate on the site, we were able to recall the deleted posts to view them in their entirety, and have followed up accordingly, including having our school resource police officer involved,” Principal Lowell-Bettencourt wrote to parents. “I know there is lots of information (and some misinformation) going around both the school and broader community about this incident, and I wanted to assure you that we have taken immediate and appropriate action. The safety of your students is our first and foremost priority, and as such, we treat all incidents seriously.”

The email apologized for “delayed communication” on the matter, potentially exacerbating concern among parents, but did not specify the date of the incident or how much time passed between the incident and the email sending date of Oct. 24.