West Allis - The sentence handed down to one of three students who called in bomb scares to West Allis Central High School earlier this year was too lenient in the eyes of some on the West Allis-West Milwaukee School Board but better than nothing in the eyes of others.
At least trying the student as an adult showed older students who might be tempted to do the same thing that they will be looking at going through adult court, said school board president Jeff Sikich.
"When they see one of their cohorts go through the courts it sends a stronger message than having to go through juvenile court and having their hands slapped," Sikich said.
"I don't think it's enough, considering all the turmoil and disruption of the educational process," said Pat Kerhin, board member and former school board president.
Devonte Evans pleaded guilty in June to phoning in a bomb scare March 9. He was tried as an adult because he was 17 years old.
Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Cimpl originally sentenced Evans to a year and a half in prison and two years extended supervision. However, he stayed that sentence and imposed 60 days in the Milwaukee County House of Correction to be served during school breaks, two years of probation, 25 hours of community service and restitution of $2,532 to go to the school district for costs incurred from the bomb scare. The school was evacuated and the students sent home.
One of the conditions of the 60 days/two-year probation sentence is that Evans not be arrested again. However, he was arrested for an unknown crime on Oct. 18 and was in the Milwaukee County Secure Detention Facility, 1015 N. 10th St., as of Monday. It is unknown how the arrest might affect his sentence for the bomb scare.
A 15-year-old boy is also suspected of being involved in the March 9 bomb scare. Police arrested the juvenile who went through the juvenile system. Authorities release no information on juveniles.
The March 9 bomb scare was the third bomb threat called into Central in three days and the fourth in a little more than a month. Police took a 16-year-old boy into custody for the earlier bomb scares on Feb. 4 and March 7 and 8, West Allis Deputy Police Chief Robert Fletcher said. Similarly, no further information is available on them, except that the boy believed to have been responsible for earlier bomb threats was charged with two felony counts of bomb scares in Children's Court Center.
The school board wanted the 16- and 15-year-olds to be tried as adults, too.
"Considering the severity of it, we thought that was necessary," Kerhin said.
Adult court asked
On behalf of the school board, Superintendent Marty Lexmond made that request to the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office.
Even though only the 17-year-old went to adult court, the district has been active throughout the situation.
"We worked closely with law enforcement and our legal counsel to pursue the individual responsible for each of these acts and continue to seek appropriate justice in the other cases as well," Lexmond said.
Because of student privacy requirements, Lexmond said he could not say what the schools did with any of the three accused of phoning in bomb threats.
"What I can share is that in each of the bomb scare cases we pursued the maximum appropriate consequence," Lexmond said.
Evans already served the first 10 days of his sentence and had been scheduled to come back to the House of Correction for Christmas vacation and spring break.
Is it enough?
Lexmond said, "The district feels that the sentence and the restitution imposes significant penalties that will likely serve to deter future threats."
That view is not universal.
"The consequences should be significant and they weren't," Kerhin said of the probation/60 day sentence
Whether it sends a strong enough message to others is hard to know, Kerhin said. But as to the restitution amount she said, "It doesn't begin to cover the cost. It's not fair."
Board member Dan Bailey had a similar view:
"I think at some point in time, society has become very lenient," Bailey said. "Probation is OK, but it sends a message that I can do this and I'll probably end up with probation."
The sentence was not enough to open students' eyes that this is something that they should never do, Bailey said.