Student death, West Yellowstone, Montana

Start Date: 02/14/2020


We were asked to come to the West Yellowstone Public School (K-12) to work with students and staff following the announcement of the arrest of three individuals in connection with the murder of a 12 year old boy. The community is small and close-knit and the school is limited regarding resources for this sort of tragedy. There were almost 10 counselors from Bozeman area schools who came to help out with students and staff. We met up with most of the counselors and Marilyn King, who was doing organizing work, in a resource room where they were mapping out the plan for the day. At first, Yuki and I went with 4 counselors to the 7th grade classroom so we could be introduced and students could be encouraged to seek out counselors in several available meeting rooms. After that, Yuki and I remained in that room for the 7th graders and the 8th graders who came in later. When they went to p.e. class, we walked the halls and entered several classrooms to interact with students in various grades. We were asked to stay a little longer in one classroom because several of the students needed more individual interaction with Yuki. When we were back in the hallway, a teacher/aide came by with a young student who was sad and needed time with Yuki. The student stayed with us for about 15 minutes, talking to Yuki and talking about finding out that she had had a sister who died at age 5, before this young girl was born. It seemed like she had been told only recently about her sister's birth and death. When students were changing locations, such as going to p.e., outside for recess, or to or from lunch, we interacted with many of them while they were at their lockers and in the halls. We also interacted with a number of staff members as they came and went. We checked in with the resource room and were asked to visit the 6th grade class, which we did. The counselors with whom I visited said things had been pretty quiet, with not a lot of students leaving classes to talk with them. By this time, Yuki was pretty tired, although I had taken him outside for a break and given him water a couple of times, and it was about 1:30, so we said we were going to leave. The staff and counselors were grateful for our presence, and the students did a lot of hugging of Yuki.

Agency: West Yellowstone Public School