Atherton Schools cancels classes for 3 days as violence threatened amid teacher’s sex charges

GENESEE COUNTY, MI — Atherton Community Schools has canceled classes for the next three days because of threatened school violence — apparently by students — in the turmoil surrounding sex charges against a teacher.

Atherton Community Schools Superintendent John Ploof announced Tuesday, Oct. 25 that school would be closed from Oct. 26-28.

Related: Atherton music teacher had inappropriate relationship with 14-year-old student, prosecutor says

“This is a decision that hasn’t come easily and impacts both students and parents,” Ploof wrote in a letter to parents and the community.

He said the decision stemmed from threats of school violence that multiple students received about 9 am Tuesday in “airdrop” messages.

The “airdrop” features on iPhones allows messages to be sent to other iPhone users within a short distance, typically 30-40 feet.

Ploof said it was clear to him the threats were coming from students inside the building.

Police responded to the school early Tuesday and began to investigate. They confiscated some students’ phones.

Administrators decided to cancel Tuesday’s classes starting around noon.

“As a district, we take the safety of our students and staff very seriously,” Ploof wrote. “The stress resulting from these threats along with the recent arraignment of one of our teachers has reached levels that have us extremely concerned.”

The decision to cancel classes for the remainder of the week comes after longtime music teacher, 54-year-old Jerry Cutting, was charged with multiple counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct for alleged sexual relations with a 14-year-old student.

Numerous parents showed up at an Atherton Schools Board of Education meeting Monday evening to complain about what they viewed as a lack of transparency by school administrators.

They said there was no message from administrators when Cutting was arrested Friday. Some also said their children were told last week not to discuss what they’d heard about Cutting.

Ploof has said that Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton advised him not to release a statement Friday about Cutting because the police investigating was still ongoing at that time.

In Tuesday’s letter about the class cancellations, Ploof wrote that anyone found responsible for making threats would be prosecuted. He asked students to come forward with any information about the threats and noted there was a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone responsible.

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