Two suspects in custody following East Helena schools vandalism

Posted at 4:31 PM, Apr 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-23 12:32:06-04

HELENA — On Saturday night acts of destruction and theft at East Valley Middle School and Radley Elementary have left the school district with thousands of dollars in damages. Superintendent of East Helena Public Schools Dan Rispens. told MTN that school will resume as normal at EVMS on Tuesday.

With the help of security camera footage, two 15-year-old juveniles are in custody and have been transported to the juvenile detention center in Great Falls, says Sheriff Leo Dutton of the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s just unfathomable to me why somebody would want to do that to a school or any other public place that people need to gather. And it affects the whole community. It affects all of our students, their parents, folks that live in the neighborhood who may not feel as safe anymore. It’s just a really unfortunate situation,” says Rispens.

Vandalized 2.JPG

On Saturday evening, individuals broke into Radley Elementary sometime after 10 PM through a conference room window, before making their way to East Valley Middle School where they broke in through another window. The suspects destroyed school property such as computer screens, smart boards, and toilets. They also stole money and student prescriptions.

While insurance agents were on site, the damage left a district already constrained by a tight budget with the pains of picking up the pieces.

“It’s pretty horrendous, the amount of damage. We won’t be surprised if the total damages exceed 6 figures,” says Rispens.

Vandalized 1.JPG

“I can certainly understand how someone who goes to school there or works there would feel violated. This is terrible. And I don’t have any other explanation other than we will work to bring to justice the people who did this,” says Dutton.

Vandalized 3.JPG

While Radley Elementary opened to students on Monday, East Valley, where most of the damage was done, was forced to close while cleanup crews tended to the school. And with most of the curriculum online and smart boards broken, resuming normal operations is difficult. Jason Cobb, an 8th grade Social Studies teacher at East Valley says that he’s still in shock about the whole situation.

“As a school, you try to be, you know, a backbone for the community. And, it, yeah, it hurts, you know, as far as that when you’re damaging not only to us as teachers but just the community in general. I mean, everybody puts into the time into the volunteering into the school. We, you know, you give quite a bit to be here, and it, yeah, it just hurts. You feel kind of betrayed for something like this to happen,” says Cobb.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more information for East Helena schools about reopening EVMS.