Teen faces felony after bomb scare

KALKASKA — A teen faces a felony charge after authorities said he falsely reported a bomb threat at his high school, forcing district officials to evacuate the building and cancel classes the following day.

Forty-sixth Circuit Court Magistrate Teresa Hill on Wednesday barred a 15-year-old boy from returning to Kalkaska High School. Police officers said on Tuesday he told another student about the threat — a verbal message that was subsequently relayed to district officials.

Kalkaska police Sgt. Blake Huff said officers — with assistance from two local sheriffs’ departments and the Michigan State Police — later that night swept through the school but were unable to find any explosive devices. An investigation into the details of the incident will continue, he said.

Hill entered a not guilty plea on the boy’s behalf as the case moves to a yet-to-be-scheduled pretrial hearing. Prosecutor Mike Perreault said it’s highly unlikely the teen will serve time in jail if he’s found guilty. Juvenile cases typically focus on rehabilitation over punishment, he said.

“We’re looking at a situation where we have a mentally troubled youth that is causing others in the community to fear sending their children to school,” Perrault said. “These things result in correcting the individual’s behavior with counseling and treatment. Detention centers are sometimes involved.”

The boy trembled as he sat next to his mother for Wednesday’s preliminary hearing. He said he didn’t quite understand the charges against him but requested a court-appointed attorney as the case proceeds. Hill said she plans to place him for psychiatric treatment when space becomes available.

His mother said the boy “doesn’t even remember saying” any threatening remarks and contended he doesn’t pose a threat to the public.

“We have some concerns at this point,” Perreault said. “It looks like he’s having difficulty being managed. … We’re not asking the child be locked up and to throw away the key.”

Hill ordered the boy be drug tested, fingerprinted and housed at a youth home to await his next hearing and further psychiatric treatment from Community Mental Health.

Superintendent Karen Sherwood late Tuesday opted to cancel district operations Wednesday as investigators worked late into the evening. Most students and teachers had already left by the time the threat arrived. Those who remained were safely shuffled to Birch Street Elementary School.

A dog from the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s department initially alerted authorities of the presence of possible explosives, triggering officials to call off class as they awaited a more detailed search from an MSP bomb squad team. Sheriff Pat Whiteford said he didn’t leave until after 1 a.m.

“It was a long night,” Whiteford said. “It took forever with only one dog sweeping the school. Our goal was to be as thorough as possible. We stayed there until the bomb squad gave the all-clear.”

The district is set to return to its normal operations on Thursday.