Southwest Michigan

Paw Paw schools reopen after threat

PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — Students returned to school in the Paw Paw Public Schools district the day after classes were canceled because of a bona fide threat.

Monday classes were called off after a teen and his parents went to the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office to report that the 15-year old had been planning an attack at the school. Police say he had stolen two guns and obtained explosives.

A Paw Paw Township police cruiser was parked in the school’s lot as students arrived Tuesday morning. Parent Jeanine Whitman said she felt safe dropping her kids off at school.

"I told them I loved them. I said, 'You know I do. Just go to school and have a good day,' and so that's how we left it this morning," she said.

School administrators said teachers were expected to discuss what occurred with students. They added resources were available for those who needed to talk to someone.

The student suspect’s parents told 24 Hour News 8 he was bullied “relentlessly” before making the plans. School officials declined to comment on the bullying allegations, citing student privacy laws.

Nonetheless, the incident has ignited an intense conversation about bullying at the school and how administrators handle it. The district has been making an effort to curb bullying. This school year, it engaged with Be Nice, a program of the West Michigan Mental Health Foundation. WMMHF Executive Director Christy Buck said she was planning to discuss a special response to this event with school leaders.

24 Hour News 8 learned that the weekend's threat isn’t the first interaction law enforcement had with the teen in question. The teen’s parents said the school called the police earlier in the school year after the teen was allegedly seen drawing a picture of a bomb.

School and police officials have not commented on how that ordeal was handled. The teen’s stepfather said local police and the FBI were involved.

"This ended up causing for more bullying," the stepfather said. "People calling him the bomb boy."

The teen was charged with several felonies Monday. Prosecutors are seeking court approval to move forward with trying him as an adult. On Tuesday, Van Buren County Prosecutor Michael Bedford said the move was to ensure that all options were on the table moving forward to protect the community and get the student any help he needs.


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