WOONSOCKET — An apparent messaging prank has put a local 15-year-old boy in line for a Family Court hearing and possible school disciplinary action, police said Friday.
The boy was taken into custody by city juvenile officers after he allegedly posted an electronic message threatening a violent incident at Woonsocket High School on Wednesday.
The threat was reported to the police department's anonymous tipline on Thursday and prompted an investigation to identify the sender.
School Superintendent Giovanna Donoyan said she was informed of the threat Thursday night while away at a Connecticut education conference and returned to assist police in notifying the school community about the incident.
"We took this very seriously," she said Friday. "The police department did an investigation and the local juvenile who sent the message was identified."
While the electronic message indicated the incident was to occur Wednesday, Donoyan said school officials and police decided it would still be prudent to send an all-call notification to parents and members of the school community describing the threat and steps taken to address it.
The calls are made through an automatic calling system; about 1,200 contacts were made with a message prepared by Donoyan.
"This was considered to be a prank but we don't take pranks lightly either," Donoyan said. Staff members at the high school notified students of the incident in their classrooms, and school principals at the elementary and middle schools also made an announcement to their students, according to Donoyan. The messages to parents went out at about 10 a.m. and were also left on answering machines if that equipment was available at homes.
The reaction to the all-call appeared to have been positive; Friday afternoon it was "business as usual" at the schools, she said.
Police Lt. Eugene Jalette said juvenile detectives made contact with the 15-year-old Thursday evening and after continuing their investigation Friday opted to lodge a single charge of disturbing a public body. His case was referred to Family Court.
in Providence. The youth was released to the custody of his parents pending a hearing before a Family Court judge on the matter, Jalette said. The boy is also facing a displinary hearing before the School Committee, Jalette said.
Although police did not view the youth as having engaged in any planning for an incident or possessing a means to carry one out, the matter was still considered to be a serious concern for the school community, Jalette said.
"It appeared to be a prank but we took it seriously, as we should," he said. The police department was appreciative of the help it received from the community in identifying a potential problem and Jalette said local residents should continue to make such contacts with the department if they learn of any similar threats.
"We encourage any with information about something they've heard to contact us so we can investigate what is happening," he said.