Middle School Teacher Faces Felony Charge Over Threatening Notes

Mich. art teacher Johnna Rhone denies she left threats insinuating future school violence
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 22, 2021 9:10 AM CST

(Newser) – A Michigan school district says a well-regarded middle school art teacher with two decades under her belt may have wanted to start her holiday break a little too early. Just weeks after a mass shooting at a Detroit-area high school that left four students dead, 59-year-old Johnna Rhone, an instructor at Jefferson Middle School in St. Clair Shores, is being accused of leaving a series of "inappropriate" notes for other teachers, one of which "appeared to be an attempt at making a false threat in the hope of closing school," according to a statement by Lakeview Public Schools.

"Start break early. He's gonna do it," read one threatening-sounding missive that Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido says Rhone left at a teacher station in the school, per NBC News. Lucido adds the note went on to read: "Just don't be in the hall after lunch. Boom! Get it?" As for the contents of the other two notes, when asked at a Monday presser if they were also threatening, Lucido responded, per the Detroit News: "Depends on how you want to interpret them."

In its statement, Lakeview Public Schools says there's surveillance footage showing Rhone delivering the first handwritten note, plus two others "similar in nature," with Lucido noting the messages were left at teacher workstations in the school library and media center, as well as in a classroom. Rhone was arrested at the school on Friday, but despite the commotion over that and the notes, the school remained open. "Based on the facts, information and timeline, the team was confident everyone was safe, and there was no need for initiating any lockdown or other safety protocols," the statement from the school district read.

The Detroit Free Press reports this incident is just the latest in a slew of copycat threats made since the Oxford shooting, though it notes this is the first to possibly involve a teacher. Rhone was arraigned Monday on a felony count of making a false report of terrorism, with her bond set at $75,000, reports WDIV. The judge has also ordered her under house arrest until she can receive a psychological exam to ensure she's not a risk to the public. Her attorney says she denies any wrongdoing and "looks forward to defending herself," per the Detroit News. Rhone could see up to 20 years behind bars if convicted. She also faces a fine of $20,000. (Read more threats stories.)

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