Hartland Classes Resume After Facebook and Twitter Threats Against Students
Some parents are concerned about 18-year-old suspect's release, others ask for compassion.
Hartland High School resumes classes today, one day after being closed after suspicions that an 18-year-old male senior posted death threats on Twitter and Facebook.
The teen admitted that he did make the threats Monday night, but claimed Tuesday it was a joke between friends. The messages, according to Livingston County Sheriff Bob Bezotte, that referenced words such as 24, rifle and “you’re first”, went viral Monday night creating a panic among parents and students.
Bezotte said parents began calling dispatch about the threat around 8 p.m. Monday night.
The Hartland senior who was supposed to graduate in a month, according to Bezotte, may have those plans in jeopardy now as he possibly faces criminal charges.
Superintendent Janet Sifferman told the Press and Argus that the suspect will meet with Hughes and expects a 10-day suspension. The student will also face an expulsion hearing and it is unknown if he will receive his diploma.
The identity of the student is not being released.
"24 will die on the 24th. 24 days until the seniors graduate. This is what I heard," Kelly Bowren Burton wrote on the Hartland Patch Facebook page on Tuesday morning.
Many parents and students linked the number 24 to the number of deaths expected on the 24 day of April.
“The parents, rightfully so, took it as a serious threat," Bezotte said. "The school officials- Janet Sifferman, Chuck Hughes- took it very serious and shut down the school. So their obvious concern was to protect the students.”
It is unclear how police determined who the suspectwas, but he was brought in for questioning Tuesday morning.
According to the Press & Argus, no guns were found in the suspect’s home and media reports that the suspect had sent out a “hit list” were false.
The suspect was released to the custody of his parents Monday afternoon sparking a debate on the Hartland Patch Facebook page with parents questioning the safety of that decision.
“Released to parents?” Patti Fortune wrote on Hartland Patch Facebook page. “If really 18-years- old, why not book him/her?”
“I am really scared for our children,” Dena Sdaa wrote on Hartland Patch Facebook page. “If he is 18, the parents do not have the rights to force him to stay anywhere....whose to say he wont sneak out and head to the school and finish his/her threat! I also heard that this isn’t the person whom did the vandalism to the school because there were more than one person that did all the damage it is 2 separate incidents per the sheriff.....Tell me how this is making assure nothing will happen?”
Sheriff Bezotte explained that Hartland High School had been dealing with incidents of vandalism over the past two weeks. The number 24 was spray painted across the Hartland High School entrance sign as well as the on the pillars in the front of the building and was also burned into the grass near the front entrance of the school.
In fact, when Hartland Patch asked principal Chuck Hughes about the obvious vandalism on campus last week, he said that the number “24” was in reference to the last day for seniors and was a senior prank.
Bezotte also told the Press and Argus that authorities have not linked the vandalism to the suspect or to the “24” comment.
Some parents and community members have come to the defense of the young man and as Hartland parent Jill Weigman says “a prank gone too far.”
“If the text or tweet that started all of this went viral so quickly any number of emotions could have helped to spiral this situation,” Weigman wrote. “Tone, inflection and intonation are not always clear through the written word.
“I do believe this is a situation that frightens everyone. I too have a child in Hartland High, and I don't want to see her harmed or your child harmed. But maybe, just maybe, this 'kid' who is being held responsible for this had no idea this would explode to this degree. Should he have known? Probably, but he is, after all a kid.
“If there really was malicious intent, then absolutely punish him to the fullest. But if the investigation results in a prank gone too far, I hope that we all can find the compassion to not let the punishment go too far.
“When a punishment goes too far, the lesson is lost. He should assuredly have consequences, but the notion that he should not graduate with his class is quite the reach. Everybody makes mistakes, especially when they're young and dumb. The person who hasn't should throw the first stone.”