Gun-toting students prepare to face judge

By Crystal Carter Harrell
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO – Two 17-year-old male students at Westside High School exchanged a loaded .22 revolver at school on Jan. 23 and are now said to be expelled.

School Supt. Scott Gauntt said the school district has strict procedures about what can be done and when it can be done. Those procedures have not yet been met.

“We have not been able to hold a hearing. We can’t hold a hearing without them having the ability to come and stand up for themselves,” Gauntt said.

Dakota Hays gave a gun to fellow schoolmate Patrick Houston in the boys’ bathroom. Houston allegedly wanted to kill a 16-year-old co-worker who also attended the school according to a previous KAIT8 report.

Craighead County Division 4 Second Judicial Circuit Judge Cindy Thyer found probable cause to charge them both with conspiracy to commit capital murder and possession of a firearm on school property. Judge Thyer set bond at $250,000 each and ordered them on house arrest should they make bond.

Hays and Houston still remain in jail and have not made bond.

Ryan Tolbert, Westside Schools security director, began employment in the school district four years after the 1998 Westside Middle School shooting. Tolbert said the situation started and began within seven minutes. 

“In this particular situation, no students were injured. Everyone was safe. It happened quick. It ended quickly,” Tolbert said. “It’s stressful. You have to make the best decision possible in a short period of time.”

District Treasurer Bill Breeden said the two students will no longer be part of the school district.

The students appear in court on Feb. 28.