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Here is why little is known about the Rigby Middle School shooting case

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RIGBY — Thursday marks a week since authorities say a Rigby Middle School student shot two students and a custodian at the school.

The sixth-grade girl was taken into custody minutes after last week’s shooting, but what happens next is not widely known. Idaho law keeps most juvenile cases from public record, so it’s not known if Jefferson County Prosecutor Mark Taylor has determined if the girl should face any charges, though Taylor told media the day of the shooting that she could be charged with three counts of attempted murder. He said his office would make the decision once law enforcement concluded its investigation.

Although Taylor’s office declined to comment this week, EastIdahoNews.com took a closer look at why we may not learn more about the case.

“We just want to give juveniles the chance to get through that adolescent age,” Bonneville County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Alayne Bean said about the sealing of juvenile cases. “We just want them to get to the point where they can get beyond some of this stuff and be contributing members of society without all that baggage if possible.”

The Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office and Bean are not involved in the Rigby Middle School case. Bean sat down with EastIdahoNews.com to explain the juvenile corrections system in Idaho and why such cases are often sealed.

The case against the girl could already have begun its process in the juvenile court system, but because of her age, the case would be sealed. Idaho Law seals all juvenile cases for those 13 years old or younger to protect the child’s privacy rights.

However, “there are reasons you can unseal a case,” Bean said.

Someone wishing to make a case public would have to file a document asking a judge to consider if the public’s right to know outweighs the juvenile’s right to privacy. The judge would have to consider factors such as the age of the juvenile, the seriousness of the offense and the juvenile’s previous history.

“Our starting point in the juvenile world is that we can intervene in this kid’s life and make it so they’re a competent adult later,” Bean said. “But that doesn’t always work. Sometimes what they do is a little bit beyond the normal.”

Bean said in cases like that, a judge would have to weigh those factors and decide if the public’s right to know outweighs the juvenile’s privacy and need for rehabilitation.

When a prosecutor believes a juvenile breaks the law, some low-level misdemeanor offenses can be handled through diversion programs designed to keep the case out of court while helping the juvenile from committing further offenses.

In more serious incidents that would be the same as a felony in adult cases, prosecutors often file a juvenile petition. Bean said the document outlines the teen or child’s alleged illegal actions. Bean further said they are not charged with a crime but are violating a law through the Idaho Juvenile Correction Act.

Most of the time, such cases remain in the juvenile court system, where a judge determines if any violations of the law were committed. If so, a judge can give out a sentence ranging from probation, community service or even detention in a juvenile corrections facility.

“Sometimes we have to put kids into detention. It’s not to punish them. There are specific rules for detention and that is keeping the community safe, keeping the juvenile safe,” Bean said.

Some cases do not stay in the juvenile system, and those kids can be charged with a crime in adult court.

For teens 14 years old or older, allegations of murder, attempted murder and some other serious offenses automatically move to the adult system.

However, if the person is 13 years old or younger, a different process is followed. (Sixth-grade students are typically 11 or 12 years old.) Bean said a prosecutor would file a waiver asking a magistrate-level judge to review the case and send it to a higher court. The hearing would come with at least a 10-day notice and include a social summary. The summary includes background information about the juvenile such as family life, education, friends, hobbies, mental health needs and more.

If the judge decides to send a case to go through an adult court, the juvenile can then face adult punishment. However, if the case stays in the juvenile system, the longest the Department of Juvenile Connections can keep a teen or child in custody is until their 21st birthday.

Jefferson County Sheriff Steve Anderson also had no updates Tuesday. All of those hurt in the shooting have been released from the hospital.

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