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.

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 , 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. . 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.”

Annie April 25, 2012 at 12:15 PM
I really hope that the student(s) that did the vandalism are caught. That act set all of this in motion. Hard lessons learned all the way around, a sad way for the class of 2012 to be remembered.
Kelly April 25, 2012 at 12:40 PM
“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." Well said. Although the kid needs to use far better judgement in the future. This coming from a Senior even more so shows his stupidity. Not quite behaving like the adult he is.
Kim April 25, 2012 at 01:05 PM
My first reaction: This child should be allowed to return to school. I thought the same thing about the 10 day suspension and being released to his parents. If he is 18 he should have been treated like any other adult that would have med these threats. Joke or not it was not a joke on the receiving end of all of this. You sir have given the senior graduating class a black eye. I do not know who you are, but my daughter is a senior there this year and if you were my child I would have left your butt in jail! After some thought thinking what if this was my child: Explosion from school, receive diploma but not be allowed to walk with you class. Still would have left your butt in jail at least over night you are an adult now. Even if you did not do it, be made to clean up the school vandalism. Would find schools that would except you talking to the students about what you did and why it was stupid and wrong, even it was a joke. Public apology in writing, this would include to your school and in front of people.
Hartland HS Parent April 25, 2012 at 01:07 PM
If it truely was a "prank gone bad", give him the rest of the year off (the students don't need to see him back there) and his diploma, let him pay a sizable fine ($5-10k, something that hurts), put him on probation for a year and a couple hundred hours of community service. He terrified 1600+ students and thier families, and shut down the school for a day. No "fun" should be percieved to have come from this, by him or anyone else. But no need to make him a felon either. If he did have some malicious intent, well then that is a different story. I trust that the Sheriff's Department will distinguish which it was. They know more of the actual details, all of us can only speculate. Lastly, 18 is 18, and 18 is an "adult". We and only coddle our kids so long.
Hartland HS Parent April 25, 2012 at 01:09 PM
I like Kim's ideas too. (in addition to mine).
Danna Castillo April 25, 2012 at 01:17 PM
History reflects that anything horrific that may have happened in similar situations was without warning. My heart beleives it was a prank that took a life of it's own, especially after parents heard about it, which of course is natural. I am in no way defending this person, I am just saying, what if it were your son? It's easy to judge but we should all have some compassion for this kid and his family. They may be our neighbors? How do you think they are feeling right now? We all are guilty of thinking/saying "MY KID WOULD NEVER..." well, sometimes they do. We all agree some type of action needs to be taken and what a bummer this kid made a horrible choice days before graduation but I think we would be a better community if we had a little compasion towards it too. Is the hysteria this situation created OK? HECK NO! But we, the parents should be talking to our own children about how something that certainly seems funny at the time, isn't always a good idea. A great teaching opportunity about consequences here for ALL out children. Good Parents raise good kids, but even good kids make bad choices. Thankfully no one was hurt. As my Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother have always said, "it's all fun and games until someone get's hurt...or goes to jail" Kind of put's this situation into perspective doesn't it? At least it does for me. ((HUGS)) to this young man's family.
Danna Castillo April 25, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Hartland HS Parent, WELL SAID!
Kim April 25, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Who would the $5-$10 really come from? Do you think he has that? I know my 18 year old does not. I understand what you are saying, but really that would come from the parents, don't you think? BTW, I am not saying this out of anger. Please do not take it that way.
FHM April 25, 2012 at 01:53 PM
I'm glad and a bit surprised to see parents (at least on the blog) approach this incident with the thought "what if it was my child". Show's understanding and compassion for the 18 yo and his parents. I had a chance to speak with some students Monday night as it "took off" on twitter and facebook and they felt it was a prank gone bad, but happy for the day off from school (of course). If he had "malicious intent", in other words, did indeed plan on killing students, then he needs to be in jail and tried as an adult. If not, then hopefully the police, etc., can sort this out and the proper punishment can be handed out (see great suggestions above). I also pray all the publicity doesn't put undue pressure on the police and school officials to "prosecute to the fullest extent of the law" if indeed this was a "prank gone bad". I know teenagers everyday make "bad decisions" and wish for a "do-over". For the life of me I can't understand why this boy thought he could get away with it knowing how social media works. That itself should be punishable...
Hartland HS Parent April 25, 2012 at 01:57 PM
FHM and Danna, Great comments as well! It is a delecate situation resulting from and event the none of us (I believe) want to see repeated.
Hartland HS Parent April 25, 2012 at 02:15 PM
I understand where you are coming from regarding the fine. As you do, I also doubt that most 18 year olds would have the cash. It could be collected through a judgement and taken out of current and future wages, or it could be paid for by the family. I would image that if the family were to pay it for them, the student would be 'paying' for it in a few ways. I just feel that it has to be substantial enough to assure no one would consider this type of prank in the future, but not so much that it would cripple the family. Too many times small fines are paid (MIP), as if they are the equivalent of a traffic ticket, it doesn't stop the behaviour, it still put the community at risk. ....maybe $10k is a bit extreme. :) Parenting is difficult, and it brings both joy and pain. I imagine the pain the parents are going through right now. Not only did they have to be concerned that there student may have been in danger, but they also had to find out that the same student, was the source of the treat. I, by no means, want to see them punished for something thier 18 y/o did.
Hartland High Parent April 25, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Thank you Danna, You just said what I have been thinking since I heard about this. My heart goes out to this young man and his family.
worried April 26, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Ok, so the school district posts on their website that they will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, but now Im hearing that there will be a 10 day suspension and maybe no graduation for this person. Thats crazy, prank or not it was still a threat on peoples lives and any 18 year old adult should realize that. When you are sending out text messages to people about being killed, that is a very real threat, and just because the sender "says" it was a prank, doesnt mean it was taken that way by anybody. The way the world is today we have so much to worry about with this kind of stuff, and I dont understand why this person was released to his parents. He is an adult and should have been kept in jail while they are investigating everything, and trying to find out if anyone else is involved. My child is very afraid to go to school. The schools also posted that they would have extra security, I dont know if they did at the HS but they didnt at the middle or elementary schools today and they are right by there. I pray that the police get to the bottom of this as soon as possible, and I think the school should press charges, because this kind of threat should not be taken lightly ever. As someone said in an earlier conversation, if the punishment for this type of act is light, like a 10 day suspension, its just opening the door to others in the future to make threats like this if they think they wont get full punishment for this. May God Bless our children and town.
Tatum Ryan (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 10:37 AM
Hello- We will be asking for an update today regarding the school punishment situation, but as was written in the article, in addition to the 10-day possible suspension, the student will also be going through an expulsion hearing- this has to go through the Hartland school board and be voted on.
Lori Gaines April 26, 2012 at 11:07 AM
Well said!
Angela April 26, 2012 at 11:09 AM
I too worry for our kids, but for different reasons. For me, the scary thing is seeing how absolutely petty and vindictive some of my fellow mothers actually are. Nobody got hurt, nobody was ever in any real danger. Certainly this was a dumb dumb dumb thing to do, but is sending a kid into the world with a felony record and no high school record really making the world a safer place?
Lori Gaines April 26, 2012 at 11:24 AM
I understand that everyone has their opinions and concerns regarding this situation. However, none of us has all of the facts. Some of these news forums and FB pages are ensuing a lynch mob mentality and just fueling rumors and innuendo. As stated above, let's have some compassion. Many hard lessons are being learned here, we would do well to talk to our kids and use this as a teaching moment. Good kids make bad choices every day, some day it could be yours. The police and school district have the facts, they will issue the consequences accordingly. Let's pray for this young man, his family and our community.
Lori Gaines April 26, 2012 at 12:16 PM
If there was a "Like" button here I would click on it.
Jennifer S. April 26, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Any kid who would do something so MALICIOUS & THOUGHTLESS as a joke (threatening the lives of others) needs to be kicked out of school, no graduation and made sure he walks the straight and narrow (probation for a year) until he figures out other peoples lives are not a joke. I blame the parents as well. This is no different than bullying, just an extreme case. Bullies think they're funny, don't they. So I'm supposed to have compassion for a bully cause he's someone's kid? Even a kid under 18 (13, 15...) should know better & be taught better. If it was my child, I'd let him or her learn this valuable lesson with severe punishment -- it won't get any easier when they're out on their own. Sometimes you don't get a second chance, with someone else's life.
worried April 26, 2012 at 01:26 PM
I dont know that anyone is trying to be vindictive, but the fact is a threat on lives was made, and just because this person said it was a prank gone too far doesnt mean that its true. I hope it was just a prank, as sick as that is, but how do we know if he really did intend to harm others and just told the police it was a prank when he got caught, we also dont know if anyone else is involved. I agree with Jennifer, you really wouldnt have any sympathy on someone who is bullying your child, so I just dont feel sympathy towards someone who threatens lives, joke or not, he should have known better. I think the school should press charges and make an example that this kind of threat is not taken lightly at all no matter how funny the one making the threats thought it would be, this has scared a lot of people, and its very sad when my child is afraid to still go to school. We have no idea what could happen, there were so many different reports of it being april 24 or may 24. If they are going to let this kid off with being expelled and just in his parents custody, then they need to get some security at all of the schools. And no, we never know when things like this could happen, anytime, anywhere, its a sad fact that there are people out there who want to hurt others, but now that we have heard the threats here in Hartland, of course people are going to be terrified about the situation and want to see legal action against someone who does this.
Jennifer S. April 26, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Make him go to summer school to get his GED and mow the school lawn all summer.
stephanie pytlowanyj April 26, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Great idea Jennifer!
Jerry Menyhart April 26, 2012 at 08:06 PM
I understand everyones concern...I really do, because I also have a child enrolled at HHS. I want to stress that none of us really know EXACTLY what has happened. We are getting bits and pieces of information and we will all rush to judge. This reminds me of the Trevon Martin case, everyone has his or her own opinion on who's guilty and who's not. Please, let the authorities, school administrators, and parents assess the proper penalties to ALL involved. While I will never condone this type of behavior, we also have to be sensible in determining the punishment. Does the punishment fit the crime? And by the way, as I understand it from some reliable sources....there are two different issues involved here, two individuals who have been defacing school property with the number 24, and one individual who "as a joke" passed on disturbing verbage on social networking venues. So, once again, let the proper authorities handle this! Just my opinion.
Momof4 April 27, 2012 at 03:14 AM
Yes, this person SHOULD have a felony....but should have a chance to possibly delete it from his record. He is 18 and should know better. Many people in our society make mistakes and realize/learn after the fact. He needs to prove to the state that he made a stupid mistake. He should graduate, but should have a felony on his record. This is NOT something we can overlook! : (
Momof4 April 27, 2012 at 03:16 AM
He should graduate, but HE SHOULD HAVE A FELONY! The felony alone is a punishment!
Momof4 April 27, 2012 at 03:23 AM
And I really am surprised that Hartland Patch, Livingston County Daily, and/or any other press out there has not blamed this on Tracey Sahouri.... I mean she does work at HHS and seems to be "the cause or blame of most problems in the district"....
worried April 27, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Hey, Im all for the punishment should fit the crime, but can it be proved that it was a "prank" and that he didnt just say that to the authorities. A death threat is serious, and the school should press charges to the fullest extent, I believe this would be classified under terror threats. And c'mon, Momof4, a lot of people may not like Tracey Sahouri or the things she does, but nobody is going to blame anyone except the person or persons making the threats.\
Caty April 27, 2012 at 11:25 PM
The child should be punished, and 10 days suspension covers that. Keeping the child out until the end of school is appropriate, as could be a distraction. In terms of not giving him a diploma, that is too far. When we were kids, we screwed up, but the world wasnt as complex with social media, etc. While we would like to expect them to understand the implications of those sort of actions, they still are kids. There was nothing found to validate an actual threat of violence, in which case more strict action would be necessary. Not being able to walk across the stage and pick up their diploma will be a memory they have their whole life. / It is a double standard that we can punish our kids for a lack of integrity, but not our teachers. The embarassment, ego maniac Tracey Sahouri, is still doing her "look at me" show for the district, when in truth, she was barely punished. It was validated that she acted without integrity and essentially lied about test scores, yet she still is permitted to teach in the district, at her old principal's salary (one of the highest in the district) . The only reason she wasnt fired is because she is protected by the teacher's union (tenure). Unions and Tenure compromise the quality of our schools because you cant truly hold teachers accountable when situations like this arise. Teachers like Tracey are more of a danger than this one kids mistake, because we are stuck with her. I hope she never gets my child in class. I will have to move!
hartland eagle April 28, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Sahouri was barely punished? She'll lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation and pension over her career. 50 people spoke at two board meetings and said they thought the punishment didn't fit, and we were losing a great administrator over a minor infraction. People speaking in favor of the board actions? Zero. Board members themselves willing to talk publicly about the disciplinary action and explain it - two. Lied about test scores? Where'd you get that from? That's just never happened, nobody's even said anything like that, and Patch should remove your defamatory remark, because you don't even know what you're talking about.
Karen Smith May 18, 2012 at 01:48 PM
I was wondering the same thing? This child obviously had some issues all through high school and probably felt that no one cared or maybe he was bullied and was never helped or listened too or maybe he just let his frustration build over four years and had had enough! When people are harassed or teased over a period of time and nobody does anything about it at the Administrative or High School level, what should the child think? We all know there are budget cuts and the teachers are overwhelmed, yet it just ONE person made a comment and asked how the child felt and made him feel that he was a person not just a number what kind of outcome would it have lead too??? You have to wonder!


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