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Schools take precautions after report of possible Helena threat

Helena Public Schools
Posted at 10:18 AM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-31 14:33:27-04

HELENA - Helena and East Helena school leaders say they had response protocols in place Tuesday morning after a report of a potential threat, but they did not believe there was any immediate danger to students.

Helena Public Schools Superintendent Rex Weltz said in a statement to parents Tuesday that law enforcement had notified the district about a possible threat.

“In the wake of last week’s tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, our district continues to work to ensure that our students and staff are safe,” he said. “Sadly, law enforcement predicted that there would be “copy cat” threats made to schools, and that prediction has borne out in other Montana communities and elsewhere across the country.”

Weltz said police had isolated the threat, and there was no danger to the community – despite social media rumors.

“We will continue to be in close contact with law enforcement through the remainder of the school year,” he said. “The District has response protocols in place, and will promptly notify families if lockdowns or other safety measures are needed. Helena Public Schools treats all threats as valid until proven otherwise.”

Later Tuesday morning, the district shared on social media that the situation was linked to the arrest of a 23-year-old man accused of threatening a shooting, as reported in a release from the Helena Police Department. They said law enforcement alerted them at 6 a.m., and the suspect was already in custody at that time.

HPS leaders said district schools did not go on lockdown.

East Helena Public Schools leaders said their schools were temporarily on “secure status” Tuesday morning because of the situation.

In a statement on Facebook, Superintendent Dan Rispens said no students were believed to be in danger. He said the secure status was lifted shortly after 9 a.m., after it was determined the person involved was in custody in Helena.

The district initially announced the secure status – meaning students and staff were kept inside school buildings until administrators received an “all-clear” notification from authorities – in a message to parents just before 9 a.m.

“All actions are precautionary,” Rispens said in the statement. “You do not need to come pick up your children and the kids will fare best if we maintain business as usual as much as possible.”

Rispens said this action was part of a standard response protocol that district staff trained on in August. He thanked EHPS school resource officer Jeff Stoltz for handling the district’s response.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated with additional information from Helena Public Schools about the reported threat.