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Bozeman High students stay home after threats of violence, canceled assembly

By Lauren Maschmedt, KTVM Anchor, lmaschmedt@ktvm.com
Published On: Dec 21 2012 07:18:08 PM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

"It's just kind of like a fun event and getting everybody excited for Christmas" said Ellie Palakovich, about the yearly talent show at Bozeman High School.

Palakovich and friend Randi Williams were looking forward to the annual assembly on Friday, on the last day of school before winter break.

But on Thursday afternoon- "the people came over the loudspeaker and telling us that the assembly was cancelled" Palakovich said.

That's when the freshman girls found out that someone made threats to commit an act of violence during the assembly.

School Superintendent Rob Watson posted a letter announcing the cancellation, and assured families of the school's safety.

"We immediately involve law enforcement whenever we have a potential threat to school safety" he said. "We're tracking down the rumors."

They haven't found the rumor's source, but Watson said they erred on the side of caution- considering recent events. Police upped their school presence.

"Just walking and patrolling, you know it's one- security, two- is for piece of mind" said Bozeman Police Lt. Dave McManis. He said two uniformed officers walked the school hallways the rest of the week, and plan to attend all school-related events through the holidays.

Both girls went to class on Friday, but said desks were empty. They felt uneasy, so Ellie's mom picked them up.

"It wasn't really comfortable" Randi said.

Watson said they saw a 10 to 15 percent increase in absences compared to the day before winter break last year. Ellie and Randi said there was a lot of tension.

"I feel like a lot of people were really disappointed that someone would make that threat, and just frustrated that people are doing these things" Ellie said.

The girls said they're glad the school is taking measures to keep them safe. They both said they noticed the police patrols, and it helped ease the anxiety.

But ultimately, they said, it didn't change the fact that someone ruined the last day of school for the year.

"It was just supposed to be a fun day before break, rather than having to worry about going to school and being safe" Randi said.

Superintendent Watson said they postponed the talent show until January or February, and everyone we talked to on Friday said they hope things will calm down after winter break.

The school district and police continue to investigate the threats. Lt. McManis said they've interviewed dozens of students.

District officials and police are continuing to meet with each other to come up with a long-term plan.