Students Face Trespassing, Criminal Mischief Charges for Flathead Vandalism

School officials could level separate punishment for students

By Dillon Tabish

Authorities plan to request trespassing charges for a majority of the students involved in the vandalism at Flathead High School while three individuals could face felony criminal mischief charges, according to law enforcement officials.

Following an investigation, Cory Clarke, the Kalispell Police Department’s school resource official at Flathead, said he planned to submit his final report early this week requesting the charges. School administrators could level separate punishment.

Clarke said all but two of the suspects were over 18.

A total of 21 students were caught on surveillance cameras in Flathead High School during an incident that occurred in the early morning hours of May 10. All but one of the students was wearing a mask, but authorities were able to identify suspects in subsequent interviews.

Clarke said the students intended to conduct a senior prank, which the school district has explicitly warned against in recent weeks. Clarke said the group tried to push open a window at the school before it broke, allowing entry. Initially, the incident involved students filling cups with water and throwing sawdust, toilet paper, silly string and cellophane throughout the halls, Clarke said. The situation escalated after a few students began damaging the school, ripping water fountains from the walls, breaking vending machines and two windows. A statue on loan to the school was also broken.

The extent of the damage is still being assessed but it is estimated to be “in the thousands” of dollars, according to school officials.

A criminal mischief charge becomes a felony after exceeding $1,500 in damages.

So-called senior pranks are not uncommon at high schools in the final weeks before graduation, and Flathead and Glacier administrators have explicitly warned students and families about the unaccepted behavior. A pamphlet mailed last week to families with graduating seniors stated, “Individuals will be held accountable for senior pranks that promote illegal activities at school. This includes actions that are disruptive, distracting, incompatible, or harmful to school operations. Depending upon the severity of the illegal activity, the discipline consequence may include suspension or expulsion, and exclusion from the graduation ceremony.”

“We don’t condone (senior pranks) in any way, shape or form. But this is clearly way beyond a prank. It was illegal activity. There was deliberate damage,” Kalispell Superintendent Mark Flatau said earlier this week.

“This is just really unfortunate.”

Correction (May 17): The school board does not decide the appropriate consequences for students; that is the building administration’s responsibility.