Two Riverside-Brookfield High School students were charged with felony counts of disorderly conduct after making statements on social media and verbally that resulted in hundreds of students skipping school on April 22 for fear someone was bringing a weapon to the campus that day.
RBHS Principal Kristin Smetana confirmed for the Landmark that “about 25 percent” of the student body was absent last Friday. RBHS’ enrollment is almost 1,600, meaning about 400 students called in sick.
Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said his department was notified by high school officials on the afternoon of April 21 of a possible threat by a student planning to bring a gun to RBHS on the following day.
Throughout that night, Riverside police received multiple calls and walk-in complaints from parents about the rumored threat, which reportedly had its origins during lunchtime on April 21.
According to police, a 17-year-old senior brought a dolphin mask to school in a bag. He reportedly opened the bag and showed it to his friends at the lunch table, saying to them, “Don’t come to school tomorrow.”
Students at an adjacent table apparently interpreted that as a threat. Those students then sent out a message via the social media app Snapchat indicating someone was planning on bringing a gun to school on April 22.
Police, meanwhile, said there was never any weapon or intent to bring a weapon to school. The boy with the mask reportedly told police he intended to put it on and ask a female student to prom.
However, the 17-year-old, of Brookfield, was charged with disorderly conduct for “acting in such an unreasonable manner as to alarm or provoke other students.” A 15-year-old Riverside boy was charged with disorderly conduct for “perpetuating the verbal assumption that a weapon would be brought to school.”
According to police, the 15-year-old “did nothing to quash the rumor as being false or contact police or school officials to tell the truth about the situation once the rumors became rampant.”
This story has been changed to correct the spelling of Kristin Smetana’s first name.