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Closed campuses, no cell phones part of Hardin schools response to social media threat

Hardin sheriff
Posted at 5:36 PM, Oct 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-27 12:20:41-04

BILLINGS — It took a while for Hardin High School to get used to its new normal Tuesday morning.

In response to a weekend social media post that threatened potential harm to high school students and staff, the Hardin school district implemented a number of new policies, including a single point of entry at all buildings complete with metal detecting wands and a thorough bag check.

The new beginning-of-the-day routine took almost an hour to complete Tuesday, students' first day in classes since the threat after the district closed schools Monday.

"We have to do this," superintendent Chad Johnson said. "That is really our No. 1 priority - the education of our students of course, but we have to keep them safe."

The Big Horn County Sheriff's Office still does not know the credibility of Sunday morning’s post, so it is taking no chances. Deputies patrolled the halls throughout the day for an extra measure of security. The school district even brought in Storm, a five-and-a-half year old black lab certified to sniff for gunpowder.

Hardin sheriff
A Big Horn County Sheriff's deputy walks the halls of Hardin High School Tuesday as an added security measure after a weekend social media post potentially threatened harm to students and staff.

Any time students need to leave class - even just to go to the bathroom - they have to be escorted by an adult. The biggest change, however, is undoubtedly a new no cell phone policy.

"That's been really hard," said history teacher Kole Passes. "As soon as the bell rings, kids would open their phone because they're allowed to have them in the halls. But now, we've said no phones at all during the day. We had to take some away because kids had been told repeatedly and had not complied. It's been the most challenging part."

Johnson said the rule is in place to keep communication lines clear and open, with law enforcement keeping its pulse on everything going on in the district. But Passes, who's been teaching in Hardin for 10 years, thinks there’s another potential benefit.

"They believe a lot of this is happening because of social media - Tik Tok challenges and people posting things on Facebook, bullying kids online," Passes said. "So we really want to get rid of that."

Hardin dog
Storm, a five-and-a-half year old black lab, checks for gunpowder in Hardin high school lockers Tuesday morning.

Johnson said he expects the new policies to be in place at least until the end of the week, but it could be much longer.

"You never want an incident like this to happen," Passes said, "but what it does is allows the school and law enforcement to re-evaluate. These are long-term solutions to a threat like this."

Read Hardin's full policy update here.