Students involved in incident return to class

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— Some of the students involved in an incident at Steamboat Springs Middle School have returned to campus following suspensions, while others remain out of school.

School officials will not discuss how many students are involved in order to protect the students' privacy. The incident, which officials have described as inappropriate conduct by a group of boys toward a female student, occurred Nov. 14 at the school.

Steamboat Springs Middle School Principal Tim Bishop said all students involved were suspended initially, but some students have since returned to classes. For students still on suspension, Bishop said he has recommended a pre-expulsion hearing or discussed an appropriate consequence with the parents.

Superintendent Cyndy Simms said the students have different levels of involvement in the incident and will face consequences reflective of that involvement.

Expulsion is the harshest consequence and a pre-expulsion hearing is required to decide if legal grounds for an expulsion are evident.

During a pre-expulsion hearing, the building principal will state his position and the student and his or her parents will have an opportunity to state their position. Simms said she will ask questions at the hearing to determine if there is any legal ground justifying expulsion.

Simms said if legal grounds are evident, then she will recommend that the school board hold an expulsion hearing.

The board will host a hearing and will make the final decision on expulsion.

Simms said the process "is meant to be a purposeful lesson for the student to grow and learn from his actions."

She said students can be expelled for up to one calendar year.

Bishop said that other consequences can be included in addition to a suspension or expulsion, such as community service or counseling.

He said the school is trying to use the incident as a springboard for discussion and prevention. "We as a middle school want to educate the whole student," he said. "We feel that it is our job as well as the job of the parents and community."

He said the school is really striving to turn the negative component of the incident into a positive action plan that includes greater communication and education for the students.

"We are really trying to be proactive and address the larger issue of boy-girl relationships," he said. "I've never seen students so willing to talk now."

The Routt County Sheriff's Office is conducting a separate investigation into the incident. Sheriff John Warner said students are still being interviewed.

He said once the investigation is complete, a report will be given to the district attorney, who will review the case and decide if charges are warranted.

To reach Jamie Hallman call 871-4234

or e-mail newsclerk@steamboatpilot.com

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