More than $30,000 has been raised to help the family of a boy who posted the social media threats that triggered Wednesday’s lockdown at Orono public schools.
Claire Berrett, an Orono parent, started a GoFundMe page to help the family of the boy, who was arrested at Orono High School on Wednesday.
“We just felt a lot of compassion and wanted to lift up a family that’s going through an incredible challenge,” Berrett said Sunday.
On the GoFundMe page, Berrett wrote that the boy has autism, a fact that she said “is an overriding piece that everybody needs to keep in mind” when considering his social media posts.
Police put the city’s public schools on lockdown for several hours after threats on Facebook and Twitter said the school would be shot up.
The boy was arrested at school and taken to Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center, facing charges of making terroristic threats.
Police had not released the boy’s name because he is a juvenile. In an interview Sunday night, Berrett said she had the family’s permission to share his name and his situation.
Berrett said the boy, Jake Johnson, remains in the detention center. She said he is “deeply broken” and despondent.
Johnson’s mother, Angie Johnson, did not return a phone call Sunday night. The Orono superintendent, Karen Orcutt, and the police chief, Correy Farniok, also did not return calls.
The page asks for donations for legal and medical expenses and help for lost wages. As of Sunday night, more than $19,000 of the $25,000 goal had been raised.
“Orono is a very compassionate community,” Berrett said in an interview. “It’s remarkable — I just knew this would come together.”
In the GoFundMe posting, she said verbal and physical threats made by people with autism are usually an attempt to express the severity of the person’s distress. “It is not necessarily a true indication of a desire to hurt themselves or others,” she wrote.
On Wednesday inside the schools, students sat in locked classrooms and some barricaded doors with cabinets, chairs and desks. Outside the campus, snowplows and police cars blocked access to roads leading to the schools. After the lockdown was lifted, Farniok said a male student had been arrested.
That morning, a Twitter screenshot made the rounds at school: “Orono is not safe. Today at 12:00pm I will shoot up the school myself,” said the tweet, which came from a handle called “Anonymous Vector.”
Police determined that both the Twitter and Facebook threats originated from the high school, the chief said. The student was not armed and no weapons were found.
Berrett, whose daughter is in the same grade as Jake, said she and a small group of friends got the fundraising idea Wednesday, shortly after the lockdown. The page was posted on Saturday.
The group has already connected the Johnson family with attorneys and other resources.
Berrett’s daughter, Geneva, and her classmates wrote letters to Jake Johnson last week to lift his spirits.
Margaret Carlson was among the first people to donate to the Johnson family Saturday. A mother of two students in the district, she said she was initially in “protective mode” when she found out about the lockdown.
But her fears diminished when she realized she knew who made the threat. “He is the sweetest kid in the world,” Carlson said, adding that he is the first one to help injured animals and had his own business selling guppies.
Berrett said she hopes the community can become more inclusive of people with special needs.
“We’re really all about promoting love in this circumstance,” she said.