Student death, West Yellowstone, Montana

Start Date: 02/19/2020


West Yellowstone Public School (K - 12) requested a follow up visit as Nancy and Yuki did such a great job on 2/14/2020. Gail and I met with the principal and the counselor from Bozeman when we arrived. They requested we visit the 8th grade, as the uncle of the 12 year old victim (who has been charged with deliberate homicide along with the victim's grandparents) was a student in the 8th grade. They also requested we visit the 6th grade, as this was the class the victim attended until September, 2019.
We were very warmly received and welcomed by everyone. Gail and I spent time in both classes just walking around the classrooms and letting the students pet and greet Lamar and Maggie. The teachers in each room continued teaching as we walked around.
Gail and I then split up - with Gail and Lamar going into several classrooms and roaming the halls. I went back to the office with Maggie and sat in with the counselor who was meeting with 3 family members. This was an emotional session for everyone. Maggie and I spent most of our time between the two young people and some time with the adult. At the end of the session all of them hugged me and thanked me and, of course, hugged Maggie.
Maggie and I went back to a third grade and spent time in a circle answering questions about HOPE and Maggie. ("How does your dog know if you are happy or sad?") The children were delightful. As we were walking down the hall we were stopped by a 2nd grade teacher who requested we visit as there was "some sadness in the room". Again the children were in a circle and they all spent time petting Maggie and asking questions. At the end of our time the children all gathered around Maggie and petted and hugged her. I was proud of Maggie - she gets anxious when she is surrounded but she handled the attention well.
At this point we had been in the school for 3 hours and both dogs were tired. We had a final request to visit a 5th grade which we did. Both dogs were welcomed and petted and hugged some more.
Throughout our stay both teams interacted with staff and students we met in the hallways. Again, everyone was gracious and appreciative for our visit.
There is a funeral and community vigil planned for this coming Sunday.

Agency: West Yellowstone Public School

Gail Richardson & Lamar