Tahoma Junior High students charged with malicious harassment

An incident on a school bus among Tahoma Junior High students Jan. 28 has led to four teens being charged with malicious harassment according to charging papers provided by the King County Prosecutor’s Office.

Prosecutors filed the charges April 9.

Principal Rob Morrow and Dean of Students Craig Johnson contacted the police Jan. 29 after learning of the incident where four white boys taunted a black boy while riding home from school.

Tahoma School District spokesman Kevin Patterson said after Johnson interviewed all of the boys involved he “determined that this was more than a typical dispute and that it had been going on for months.”

Patterson said, “As the bus was loading to take students home, the bus driver observed one of the white male students shouting and using foul language directed at the black male student. The driver ordered the student to stop, which he did. At the bus stop for the four white male students, the driver noticed that the boys were attempting to hide instead of getting off the bus. She ordered them to get off and they did.”

The suspects called the victim a variety of names during the bus ride including racial slurs as well as yelling “white power” to bait the victim into a fight, according to charging papers. They also attempted to draw the victim’s friend into a fight.

One of the suspects attempted to bring a cane onto the school bus the morning of Jan. 28, but the bus driver wouldn’t allow it so the student stashed the cane in some bushes nearby. That afternoon the bus driver saw the boy retrieve the cane and dash off with the other three suspects in the direction of the victim’s bus stop. The driver advised the boys to take a different route home.

“One of the fences surrounding (the friend’s) backyard backs up against the bus stop, so (both boys) jumped over the fence,” the charging papers stated. “(They) watched as (the suspects) walked toward their walked toward their bus stop.”

One of the suspects held a large stick and another boy had the cane. The four boys split up into pairs with two boys staying at the bus stop while the other duo walked around the neighborhood, giving up after close to 30 minutes.

The next morning on the ride to school the four suspects tried to get the victim and his friend to fight. While on the way to the junior high the bus driver called ahead and requested the school’s resource officer, Deputy Mike Sutherland, meet the bus when it arrived.

After the bus arrived the boys were interviewed by Sutherland who read them their Miranda rights and had them sign a suspect rights form.

One of the suspects admitted on Jan. 28 after they were unable to confront the victim and his friend all four boys began planning what they wanted to do on the bus the next day while walking back to their neighborhood.

One of the boys said the victim instigated the dispute by calling the suspect a “hick” among other names before the school year started, according to charging papers, and the suspect claimed the victim also tried to start fights.

But the victim claimed that he doesn’t know why the four boys, who he said started causing him problems during the previous school year, didn’t like him and wanted to fight.

The victim’s mother, who said two of the suspects lived on their street, explained to the authorities that she is aware of three incidents in their neighborhood where the other boys harassed her son. Their home was egged around the holidays. Another time the suspects were among a group who arrived at her door step with sticks in hand looking for her son.

Patterson said all four of the suspects were give emergency expulsions Jan. 29 for misconduct, “including the use of the term ‘white power,’ bullying, intimidation, threats and aggressive behavior.”

“The boys have remained out of school since they were expelled,” Patterson said. “They have the right to apply for readmission next year.”

Dan Donahoe, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said in an e-mail that arraignment is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. next Friday in juvenile court.