Teacher charged with felony over notes at St. Clair Shores middle school

Hani Barghouthi
The Detroit News

St. Clair Shores — A middle school art teacher was charged Monday with making a false report or threat of terrorism.

Johnna Rhone, 59, was arraigned Monday afternoon in 40th District Court before Judge Joseph Oster. She is accused of leaving threatening notes at Jefferson Middle School in Lakeview Public Schools on Friday. She was arraigned via Zoom with her attorney in the courtroom.


Her attorney, Andrew Leone, said Rhone denies the accusations and "looks forward to defending herself." She has worked in the district for 21 years, he said.

Parents were afraid to send their children to school in a "post-Oxford world," Assistant Prosecutor Patrick Sierawski told the court.

Oster ordered Rhone to be placed under house arrest with a GPS tether until a psychological assessment was done to determine whether she poses a threat to the public. Bond was set at $75,000. 

Jefferson Middle School staff discovered threatening notes under the doors of classrooms at Jefferson Middle School in Lakeview Public Schools at about 7:30 a.m. Friday and alerted St. Clair Shores police.

Following a review of school surveillance video, Rhone was arrested, said Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido.

At least three notes containing threatening language were found in a classroom, the library and the media center at the school, Lucido said at a press conference Monday following Rhone's arraignment. 

He said one of the notes read: "Start break early. He’s gonna do it. Just don’t be in the hall after lunch. Boom! Get it?" 

Asked whether the other two notes contained threats, Lucido declined to say but said it "depends on how you want to interpret them." 

"She has a right to remain silent, but I would like to hear her side," Lucido said. 

A probable cause conference for Rhone has been set for Feb. 1 at Leone's request. 

In an interview Saturday, Lucido described frustration with threats against schools after the Nov. 30 shooting at Oxford High School. Four students were killed and seven other people were wounded. In the weeks following the shooting, numerous schools were on lockdown or canceled in-person classes due to threats of violence.

"You've got notes being thrown under staff members' office doors, and it's all on video," Lucido said. "The question becomes why? I've had to take a zero-tolerance policy on students calling in threats; now we have to worry about a teacher?"

On Monday, he reissued a zero-tolerance stance.

"We promise to prosecute every one of these threats," he said. "That's the only way you can get the message across. There will not be a walk. There will not be leniency."

The charge of false report or threat of terrorism is a 20-year felony. If convicted, Rhone faces a fine of up to $20,000.