Bullied Kennewick student wrongfully punished for alleged shooting threat, principal says

KENNEWICK, Wash. — A 13-year-old student at Desert Hills Middle School was wrongfully punished over an alleged school shooting threat based on rumors spread by bullies, the school’s principal said Wednesday.

The Kennewick Police Department arrested the student before school started on Tuesday, Dec. 3 after learning about a possible threat toward the school the night before.

Police said they found evidence to arrest the student on suspicion of felony harassment. The student was booked into juvenile detention and emergency expelled.

RELATED: 13-year-old arrested for Kennewick school shooting threat, police say

On Wednesday, Principal Steve Jones announced that an investigation by the school district found that the student never made a threat, nor did he have access to weapons.

“The student who was identified as making the threat was reportedly being picked on by other students,” Jones said. “Some of the verbal exchanges between the student and those who were picking on the student were passed on to other students.”

Based on those rumors, a classmate reported “third-hand information” to a trusted adult, and the adult notified authorities, Jones said.

Police said the announcement is confusing because the district’s investigation seems to contradict the police department’s own findings.

The student who police said was previously expelled will be returning to school sometime this week.

“The hope and expectation is that everyone will treat him with kindness as the student strives to put this incident behind him,” the principal wrote in an email to parents.

The email continued, “We do not discuss individual student discipline actions, but please know that bullying is not tolerated at our school. Desert Hills Middle School is committed to raising awareness about bullying, forming clear rules and strong social norms against bullying, and providing support and protection for all students.”

Kennewick Police Lt. Aaron Clem said the principal’s announcement is confusing because it seems to contradict the police department’s own findings.

Clem said the student was arrested based on evidence from their investigation, and that prosecutors have found probable cause to charge him with the crime.

KAPP-KVEW has left a voicemail for the Kennewick School District’s spokesperson to learn more. We are waiting to hear back.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to include the police department’s response to the school district’s investigation.