BILLINGS — Students at Billings Senior High School told MTN News Thursday they believe the wrong person was arrested in connection with a recent threat toward the school.
“We don’t think that he did it ‘cause he’s innocent ‘cause he was the one that went to go report it but they arrested him anyways,” said Kason Blacksmith, a freshman at Senior, across the street from the school during lunch hour.
In addition, several people driving by the school yelled out the window to MTN that the student in custody should be free.
On Wednesday, school administrators discovered a threat to shoot up the school in a boys' bathroom stall. A picture of the threat was also shared on social media. A 15-year-old sophomore at Senior High was arrested and is facing a charge of intimidation. Administrators have not said if anyone else might be involved.
Even if the student arrested was not the one who left the threat, Blacksmith did not feel scared to attend school Thursday.
“I honestly think that there wouldn’t be a school shooting here today because it didn’t happen at West, so it’s not going to happen here,” Blacksmith said.
Two similarthreats were made at Billings West High over the past week. Those threats targeted Wednesday, Dec. 7 for a shooting, but nothing happened at the school that day. Administrators and police have not identified any suspects.
According to Superintendent Greg Upham, Senior's attendance rate was at 72% Thursday, compared to the average attendance of 82%. Upham also said Senior Principal Jeff Uhren states the reason for drop in attendance was more attributed to sickness than the shooting threat.
The Senior student arrested appeared in youth court Thursday. Allegations included that the youth sent out via social media a school threat against Senior High that caused fear. The caption on the photo shared of the threat said "That's crazy. Our school too now."
Yellowstone County District Judge Donald Harris set a release order for the student, including a $500 bond and a GPS tracker on the student, who must stay 1,500 feet away from Senior High. At one point during court, Harris asked the parents of the student if they had any guns in the home. They responded with "no."
David Riedman is the founder and researcher for the K-12 School Shootings Database, which collects data of every time a gun is brandished or fired, or a bullet hits school property.
Riedman said there is no official database for threats alone but that based on his estimates, "there were more than 100,000 school shooting threats last school year. This year it appears it’s going to be similar to that.”
He also said the nation is at an all-time high for school shootings in 2022, sitting at 292.