A threatening video posted to social media forced a shelter-in-place order for Belgrade schools and postponed a middle school graduation Tuesday.
Belgrade eighth graders were supposed to graduate Tuesday afternoon. But the ceremony was postponed during a police investigation into a threatening video shared on social media. The video shows a boy pointing a gun at a list of student names. Three girls are seen kicking, punching and yelling racial slurs at the camera and saying they were going to beat up the named students.
The Gallatin Media Center says four juvenile students have been charged with felony intimidation. David James Oster (18) was arrested and charged with tampering with physical evidence, also a felony. The incident is still under investigation.
After walking across the stage Wednesday morning, now-ninth-grader Sam Veltkamp is wearing his graduation t-shirt outside the high school gym. He says he wasn’t really nervous or worried about the shelter-in-place order, just ready for the school year to be over.
Rachel Cramer: What was that experience like?
Sam Veltkamp: It was kind of boring. We were sort of in a classroom, sometimes in a gym, just sitting around.
His mom Milly Veltkamp says she found out about the shelter-in-place when she came to the school for the promotion ceremony Tuesday. The Belgrade police told her and other parents they had to stay off school grounds.
“I wasn’t really worried because I knew the kids were being well taken care of -- maybe a little confused because I have a daughter at the high school, too. So I had one in both schools, wondering what was going on. But I figured that obviously it was important so they needed to take care of it,” Veltkamp says.
She opted in to receive alerts through phone calls and text messages from the school district. It’s part of the school’s plan to keep everyone safe and to let parents know what’s going on.
Belgrade High School Principal Paul Lamb is on the school’s emergency planning team. The group of teachers, school staff and administrators meet once a month to plan school drills and figure out how they can better prepare for worst case scenarios.
"We are continually training our staff, continually working to improve our emergency preparedness. We pray that we never ever have to use it, but every time we have a shelter-in-place like this, we put it in force, and it has worked as good as it can work,” says Lamb.
Lamb says they’ve had more drills in recent years due to an increase in incidents like the one Tuesday. Last year they closed the school to investigate threatening graffiti in a bathroom.
Belgrade has the fastest growing school district in the state. With each building addition to the high school, Lamb says they try to incorporate new technology like doors that can automatically lock.
“There was some grant funding that we got after Sandy Hook that allowed us to put some bullet proof glass on windows and to change the entrance of our building so that people couldn’t just walk right into the building, they had to be buzzed in by the secretary," says Lamb.
But Lamb says they haven’t been able to find other grants to change locksets and add additional safety features. He says this summer they’ll be using some of the bond money for the high school’s expansion to retrofit doors in older parts of the building.
All district staff in 2017 received "Run, Lock, Fight" curriculum, which was created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to train teachers and staff how to react in the event of a school shooting. Lamb says voluntary training is available for new teachers and staff in August.