UPDATE: PT teacher held on $150,000 bond after classroom disruption


UPDATED 8:50 a.m. March 22

A Port Townsend High School teacher is being held on $150,000 bond after allegedly threatening the school's principal March 18.

James “Jim” Keith Miller, 52, of Port Angeles appeared in Jefferson County Superior Court by closed-circuit video March 21.

Deputy Prosecutor Julie St. Marie asked that if Miller is released, he not be allowed to contact Principal Carrie Ehrhardt, Vice Principal Scott Wilson or any other school district employees. She also asked that he not be allowed to contact students, attend school events, or possess any firearm or dangerous weapon.

Judge Keith Harper agreed, setting those as Miller's conditions of release.

Miller is set to appear in court for arraignment Friday, March 25.

Prosecutors charged Miller on March 21 with harassment and second-degree burglary after he allegedly threatened to kill Ehrhardt and then visited his classroom after having been placed on administrative leave and was reminded that he is not to return to the school campus.

Burglary does not indicate intent for theft, rather it's defined as entering a property with intent to commit a crime, according to RCW.

UPDATED 10:55 a.m. March 19

A press release from the Port Townsend Police Department, distributed Saturday morning, is now attached to this story. Elements from the press release are in BOLD as added to our original story below.

ORIGINAL STORY 5:42 p.m. March 18

Police arrested a Port Townsend High School math teacher March 18 in a student-filled classroom.

On Feb. 4, school administrators put James Keith Miller, 52, on administrative leave after he had reportedly been acting irrationally in class, telling him not to return to the campus, Port Townsend Police Department (PTPD) Detective Luke Bogues told the Leader..

Jefferson Mental Health staff evaluated Miller on Feb. 4 after police transported him to Jefferson Healthcare. Upon his arrest March 18, Miller told Bogues he suffers from bipolar disorder, Bogues said.

Miller met with school administrators on the morning of March 18 at a downtown restaurant. Miller became disruptive during the meeting and made threats to kill PTHS Principal Carrie Ehrhardt, Bogues said.

A police officer in plain clothes was seated in another part of the restaurant to keep the peace and was informed of the threats after Miller left, according to a PTPD press release issued March 19.

Miller was reminded during the meeting that he is not welcome on campus, Bogues noted.

That afternoon, Miller visited his classroom on the second floor of the Math and Science Building on the PTHS campus while a substitute was teaching a fourth-period class.

Miller began removing personal items from the wall, appeared to be talking on his cellular phone, described personal details of his life to students, and started asking the teenagers if anyone had been talking about him since he was placed on leave, according to the PTPD. Students in the classroom and adjoining rooms reported hearing Miller shouting using foul language.

PTPD officer Jeremy Vergin, assigned as the school resource officer, responded to the classroom to find that Miller had a folding knife, which Miller immediately set down in its folded position, Bogues told the Leader. Otherwise, Miller was initially uncooperative, according to police.

School staff escorted the children out of the classroom as additional officers arrived. School administrators put the campus on lockdown as Vergin and other officers placed Miller under arrest and led him off the campus, Bogues said.

“This is one of the main reasons we have a school resource officer,” Bogues said.

Administrators lifted the campus lockdown once Miller was removed from the campus.

The students and their substitute teacher went to the school library, where Vergin and PTPD Sgt. Garin Williams answered questions. Counseling was also available to students.

No students or staff were injured, Bogues said. Ehrhardt sent a letter to parents March 18. According to that letter, no students were threatened.

Miller was booked into the Jefferson County Jail in Port Hadlock.

Bogues said the PTPD is recommending Miller be charged in Jefferson County Superior Court with felony harassment and second-degree burglary. Miller is due in court at 11 a.m. March 21.

The Port Townsend Police Department previously responded to the high school on Feb. 4, 2016 when Miller was reported to be suffering from a mental health condition, according to a PTPD press release. At that time, Miller was escorted off the campus by officers and was taken to Jefferson Healthcare where he was put in contact with Jefferson Mental Health Services. Miller was told at that time he was prohibited from returning to the campus.

Miller has been a staff member at PTHS since at least the 2010-2011 school year. This year he is listed as teaching Algebra I and Advanced Placement Calculus.

Principal Ehrhardt sent the following statement home with students March 18:

“Student safety is always a top priority for our school and district. Today during 4th period, an employee, who has been on leave, entered our school campus and proceeded into his classroom without school permission. While he did not do anything to threaten the students, when he refused to exit at the request of law enforcement, he was removed. Once law enforcement was in the classroom, the students quickly and calmly exited the class, along with substitute John DeGarmo, and then proceeded to the library. Once the employee was in police custody, he was immediately taken from our campus. Our School Resource Officer, Jeremy Vergin, and Sargent (sic) Garin Williams, our former school resource officer, spoke with the students in the library, and answered questions. Additionally, we offered counseling to the students for the remainder of the day, and encouraged students to call home to speak with parents if needed. There will be counseling available for any student who would like to speak in confidence with our school counselors. If needed, additional counselors can be brought into the school next week.”


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