Cuyahoga Falls -- Two Woodridge Middle School boys, a 12-year-old and a 13-year-old, were charged with disorderly conduct and were disciplined by the school in connection with clown photos and threatening messages they are accused of posting on Instagram last weekend.
The punishment came following a collaborative effort among school and police officials to identify those responsible for the social media postings Oct. 9.
In an email to the Falls News-Press, Woodridge Local School District Superintendent Walter Davis said he "received several calls" on Oct. 9 notifying him of Instagram postings that "pictured a clown, some local landmarks, and comments suggesting that Woodridge, several of the Cuyahoga Falls schools and [Immaculate Heart of Mary School] 'are next.'"
He added there were comments listed under that posting that "were threatening," and noted he received a message from Falls Police Chief Jack Davis saying he was aware of the situation.
Walter Davis said he spoke with Chief Davis, Cuyahoga Falls City School District Superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols and IHM principal Kathy Friess throughout the afternoon. Both Davis and Nichols issued phone blasts to homes in their respective districts about 6:15 p.m. Oct. 9. Friess said she sent out an email blast at that same time to her school's homes.
In those calls, both superintendents said "we have been made aware of postings by someone posing as a clown on social media mentioning our schools and others in the community," and added they were working with local law enforcement officials "to identify those involved." Both Nichols and Davis said they were planning to have "increased presence of local police at our schools as we resume classes [Oct. 10]."
"Within six minutes of the calls going out -- the Instagram posts were deleted," said Davis in his email.
Davis said he received a call from a Woodridge School District parent just before 8 p.m. Oct. 9.
"[The parent] explained that his son and one of his friends were there (along with the parents) and that the boys had something they wanted to talk to me about," said Davis. "He put us on speaker phone and the boys proceeded to explain that they had made the clown post and were responsible for the situation. We had a lengthy conversation as the boys outlined what had occurred."
Davis said he then notified Chief Davis, Nichols and Friess about his dialogue with the boys.
Davis said both he and Nichols issued a second phone blast updating their districts' residents. Davis issued his call at about 8:25 p.m., while Nichols delivered his message at about 8:45. In this call, Davis and Nichols said the people responsible "have identified themselves and that the social media posts have been deleted."
"The authorities have been notified and we will be working with them [Oct. 10] to impose the appropriate consequences and disciplinary measures," Davis said in his call.
Both Davis and Nichols said in their calls: "[We] urge all of you to talk with your children about the dangers of social media, the consequences of using it inappropriately and the legal and social implications that can result."
Friess said she sent out a subsequent email blast to update her school's homes on the new details.
Davis said he met with Woodridge Middle School's principal and assistant principal, the school resource officer, and the two students and their parents on Oct. 10.
"School-related consequences have been imposed," said Davis.
Chief Davis added the students have been charged with disorderly conduct, a minor misdemeanor.
This situation is part of an ongoing nationwide trend involving people dressed as clowns. In their calls to district homes, Davis and Nichols both noted there have been news stories about people dressed as clowns "causing problems in communities across the country. In some communities, arrests have been made."
Woodridge Schools dealt with a second clown report on Oct. 11. A report filed with police stated an 18-year-old Woodridge High School student on Oct. 11 "did cause alarm and annoyance to the school by posting a threatening message on a fake Twitter account."
Chief Davis confirmed that the "threatening message" was associated with a clown photo and added that the male student was disciplined by the school and also charged with disorderly conduct, a minor misdemeanor.