Police now believe one bad decision led to another and, eventually, a group of White River High School students had hung a Barack Obama doll in effigy in a school stairwell.
That started a sequence of events that resulted in the emergency expulsion of five students, a review by the school district and, finally, a decision that the matter be turned over to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.
Det. Ed Troyer, a Sheriff’s Department spokesman, said investigators are still gathering facts and talking to people either involved in or witnesses to the Nov. 6 incident. When everything is sorted out, Troyer said, the case will be handed to the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, which will determine if charges are leveled.
While the district announced actons against five students, Troyer said the department is looking at three, one 17 and a pair of 16-year-olds.
According to reports, a doll identified with an “Obama 2008” patch had a string placed around its neck. The other end of the string was then looped around a pipe in the stairwell.
Troyer said the doll hung for just a few minutes before it was removed, but was witnessed by plenty of students.
Troyer said indications are that the incident was not a planned event and not a part of a political protest.
Two days earlier, Obama had been elected the nation’s first black president.
White River Superintendent Tom Lockyer believes his district is like any other – and the recent incident was a case of a few students making a bad choice.
“It’s not the culture we believe we have here,” he said, referring to the racial overtones brought about by the event.
“It wouldn’t have mattered if it was another president or another president-elect,” Lockyer said. “The district would have dealt with it the same way.”
At the Nov. 12 White River School Board meeting, White River High Associated Student Body President Brandon Skyles said he and other student leaders are trying to remind those outside the school of the positives coming out of the student body.
“It goes against what we really are here,” he said of the incident.
Lockyer agreed and said he’s encouraged by the students who are stepping up to let outside sources know the reality of the situation. “It’s not a reflection of what the student body is as a whole,” he said.
Reach Kevin Hanson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-802-8205. Reach Brenda Sexton at email@example.com or 360-802-8206.