BSSD offers counseling to students, parents

By Joseph T. O’Connor Explore Big Sky Managing Editor

This article was updated from the original, which was published Sept. 2

BIG SKY – The Big Sky School District on Sept. 1 reported its girls’ varsity basketball coach had been arrested and detained by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office.

Cyle Kokot, 22, was arrested Aug. 29 on two counts of sexual intercourse without consent and his bail was set at $250,000 on Sept. 2. The victims are both minors who played basketball for Kokot, the Lone Peak High School girls’ head basketball coach.

“It is incomprehensible to us as a school and community that this alleged behavior could occur,” said Big Sky School District Supt. Jerry House in a statement. Ophir School and LPHS opened for the 2014-15 school year on Sept. 3 as scheduled.

“We’re [currently] working together with other schools in the county to help our children and to help alleviate the problem,” said House in a Sept. 3 phone interview with EBS, encouraging those with questions to seek guidance through the school. “When a student is confused or angry, we have counselors available to talk to those students.”

Counselors and administrators from around the state as well as local pastor Bradford Lartigue are meeting with BSSD students, teachers and parents from Sept. 3-5. After Sept. 5, BSSD k-8 counselor Katy Thomas is available to speak with pre-high school students, while 9-12 graders have access to a specialized area group, according to House.

“Counseling is always available based on need,” he said. “Licensed psychologists and therapists with the Gallatin County Special-Ed Co-op will be available after Friday [Sept. 5] at a moment’s notice.”

Kokot, who was employed by the district since 2012, is expected to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on Sept. 19. He is currently on suspension without pay and being held in the Gallatin County Detention Center.

Due to the legal responsibility to protect the rights of all parties involved and the ongoing investigation, the district is unable to provide any additional information at this time, House said.

Supt. House may be contacted at (406) 995-4281 and any questions regarding the investigation can be referred to the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office.

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Lending an open ear

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor Rebecka Pearson, with Monforton School District in Bozeman, was one of many professionals who offered counseling services to students, parents and BSSD staff from Sept. 3-5. Here, Pearson offers insight into awareness and sensitivity during a crisis situation:

• LISTEN to the victims, family and community members while maintaining a non-judgmental perspective.

• Ensure safety both physically and psychologically while assessing the needs of those affected by the situation.

• Triage the needs for levels of care: individual therapy, family therapy, group or community processing.

• Look for signs of anxiety or depression including change in emotional states, withdrawn mood, changes in appetite, etc., being aware that every individual processes at different paces, so emotions may surface immediately or could take weeks or months to arise. It is crucial that regardless of the time they surface, the emotions are treated with respect and given the attention needed to process them adequately.

• Be aware that any trauma can and typically does trigger old traumatic events in the victims, family and community members.