Attendance at Meridian’s Rocky Mountain High School was about usual Monday, but one male student was notable for his absence.
That teen is accused of sending tweets to peers Sunday night insisting "don't go to Rocky tomorrow" and vaguely implying danger with hashtags such as "#retweet to save a life," West Ada School District spokesman Eric Exline said.
Alarmed students notified Meridian police, who went to the home of the suspected culprit — who reportedly used his name as a Twitter handle — late Sunday night. Officers got permission to search the house "to determine there were no devices or guns" and by about 12:30 a.m. were satisfied that the tweets didn’t represent a threat to the school or its students, Meridian Deputy Police Chief Tracy Basterrechea said.
"Apparently he wanted to get a reaction," Basterrechea said. "I don't think he got quite the reaction he wanted."
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Extra security was on hand at Rocky Mountain High Monday "just to make sure," Exline said, and the district sent a message to parents about 7:15 a.m. letting them know what happened.
"We had about 200 kids absent from school at Rocky today," he said, but since the school enrolls about 2350 kids, that absentee number is normal.
The student identified as the ominous tweeter was not at school Monday and likely will not be there this week, Exline said, declining to say whether that was the school’s choice or the parents' choice.
No disciplinary decision has been made yet, he said, but the punishment for this type of incident "starts with a three-day suspension and can go as high as expulsion for the remainder of the school year." The school will make a recommendation of discipline within five days, starting a process that would likely include a hearing, he said.
And the student could face misdemeanor charges of telephone harassment, a category that covers social-media devices as well as telephones, Basterrechea said. The boy would be charged as a juvenile, and a charging decision is probably a couple of weeks away, he said.
Asked for the bottom line of this situation, the deputy police chief said the student falsely alarmed students and parents and "wasted a lot of people's time."
"Kids need to pay attention to what they’re tweeting," Basterrechea said.