Richland High student expelled after sending threatening texts

A Richland High student was expelled Wednesday after a series of dark jokes triggered the concerns of school officials.

When administrators learned about the text messages the 15-year-old was sharing with his friend, they believed the teen could pose a danger to the school, according to school and police officials.

Administrators put the school into a lockdown at 10:40 a.m. until the student could be found, said Principal Tim Praino in a written message to parents.

The student was emergency expelled, a move aimed at protecting students and staff from potential danger. The expulsion has to be reviewed or converted into another type of corrective action within 10 days, according to school policy.

Richland police were called and the student was taken into custody at the school. The lockdown was lifted after about 40 minutes.

While officials initially feared the student was threatening the school, investigators learned his messages were aimed specifically at an individual and not the school, Richland police said. They also learned he meant the messages to be funny and wasn’t trying to threaten anyone. The teen was not arrested.

“We want our community to know that we take all threats seriously and thoroughly investigate them,” Praino wrote. “We encourage students and community members to act as soon as possible by reporting any threats or safety concerns to the police or school administrators.”

Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers’ questions about why police officers and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.