Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido speaks about the charge against Rhone at the St. Clair Shores Police Department following her arraignment. Standing behind Lucido, from left, is Detective Lt. James Brueckman, Police Chief Jason Allen, Detective Brock Bowen, Macomb County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Sierawski and Deputy Police Chief Paul Plaza.

Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido speaks about the charge against Rhone at the St. Clair Shores Police Department following her arraignment. Standing behind Lucido, from left, is Detective Lt. James Brueckman, Police Chief Jason Allen, Detective Brock Bowen, Macomb County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Sierawski and Deputy Police Chief Paul Plaza.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


Shores teacher charged after allegedly leaving threatening notes

Attorney: veteran art instructor ‘flat-out denying’ charges

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published December 20, 2021 | Updated January 7, 2022 4:36pm

 Johnna Rhone

Johnna Rhone

 Jefferson Middle School art teacher Johnna Rhone is arraigned via video conference in 40th District Court Dec. 20 on a charge of making a false report or threat of terrorism.

Jefferson Middle School art teacher Johnna Rhone is arraigned via video conference in 40th District Court Dec. 20 on a charge of making a false report or threat of terrorism.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — A 59-year-old teacher who has been at Jefferson Middle School for 21 years has been charged with making a false report or threat of terrorism.

The St. Clair Shores Police Department was notified of a threat at 7:30 a.m. Dec. 17 after school administrators had been provided with three handwritten notes that had been left at different teacher work areas. Over the course of the investigation, an employee of Jefferson Middle School was identified as being allegedly responsible. That employee was taken into custody by the St. Clair Shores Police Department shortly after noon Dec. 17 and placed on administrative leave.

The school’s art teacher, Johnna Rhone, was arraigned Dec. 20 in front of 40th District Court Judge Joseph Oster on one count of making a false report or threat of terrorism. She received a $75,000 bond, or 10% cash or surety, and will be placed on a GPS tether. Other conditions of her release include having no contact with Jefferson Middle School or its employees, having no possession of firearms and remaining on house arrest until the completion of a psychological evaluation.

During her arraignment, Macomb County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Sierawski said one of the notes read: “Start break early. He’s going to do it. Just don’t be in the hall after lunch. Boom. Get it?”

The charge is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.

According to a press release from Lakeview Public Schools Superintendent Karl Paulson, middle school administrators were provided with “multiple, inappropriate, handwritten notes, similar in nature, that were left at three different teacher work areas. Prior to school starting, administrators worked with law enforcement to quickly identify the alleged distributor of the notes through a review of camera video footage.”

Based on known information and the timeline, administrators were confident that the school was safe and there was no need for a lockdown or other safety protocols, the release said.

Although the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office has handled a rash of threats involving juveniles in the days and weeks following a deadly shooting at Oxford High School, this is the first such charge involving an adult, Sierawski said.

Rhone’s defense attorney, Andrew Leone, said she had 23 years’ experience as an educator, 21 of which had been spent at Jefferson Middle School in Lakeview Public Schools. Although he had not seen the video or any other evidence as of her arraignment, he said that she’s “flat-out denying” the charges.

During her video arraignment, Rhone whispered, “not true, not true, not true,” as the allegations were read against her before Oster asked her attorney to remind her of her right to remain silent.

Leone pointed out after the arraignment that Lakeview’s superintendent “saw no plausible threat” in the notes.

While Leone acknowledged the seriousness of the charge and the desire to protect the community, he said, “I don’t think there’s any plausible threat to the community.”

“She made a pointed denial,” he continued. “She seemed shocked by this, from what I could gather. She’s upset.”

In a press conference held immediately after the arraignment, Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido said that parents and students should be able to attend school without fear. He applauded the district’s decision to place Rhone on administrative leave.

“She won’t be around our children,” he said.

Lakeview Public Schools called Rhone’s alleged behavior “unacceptable and disappointing” in the release. The district said there had never been any serious complaints or concerns made about her behavior or student interactions from parents, students or staff members, and she had earned “effective” performance ratings in her evaluations throughout the years she has worked in the district. She has been employed with Lakeview Public School since August 2000.

The investigation is ongoing, and Rhone invoked her right to remain silent, but Lucido said he would like to hear Rhone’s side of the story since she is denying the allegations. He said they did not know yet if Rhone allegedly wrote the notes or was given them, but she was seen on video at the locations after the notes were placed. The Prosecutor’s Office did not disclose the contents of the other two notes, but Lucido said they were found in a classroom, the media center and the library.

“We expect more from our teachers,” he said. “I can expect something like this from a child, not an adult.”

He said his office was taking a zero-tolerance approach to any threats made against schools in Macomb County.

“Terrorism is in no way, shape or form allowed in a classroom,” he said. “This is no way to lead.”

A probable cause conference for Rhone is set for Feb. 1.

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