Reedsburg man arrested after Facebook school threat, school atte - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Reedsburg man arrested after Facebook school threat, school attendance down

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REEDSBURG (WKOW) -- 200 families in Reedsburg chose to keep their children home from school Thursday when a threatening Facebook post spread on social media.

Reedsburg Police Chief Timothy Becker says the department took dozens of calls from concerned citizens after a 21-year-old Reedsburg man posted a threat to shoot up an elementary school.

The threat, posted by Dakota Berndt around 5 p.m. Wednesday, did not indicate any specific schools and was taken down after about an hour and after it got multiple shares on Facebook.

Police say around 10 p.m., officers located and arrested Berndt at his family's home. An investigation found Berndt did not have access to weapons and after interviewing him, Becker says the threat was not credible.

"What [Berndt] said to us was he had really no intention of [a threat], it was just a stress relief to say it and that's why he had posted that," Becker tells 27 News. "He wasn't able to explain himself. He's a 21-year-old guy who posted something he shouldn't have and didn't realize the extent to which that post would get out."

Becker says while investigators believe the threat was not credible, they must take every threat seriously.

Berndt was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct and was released from jail on a signature bond. The Sauk County District Attorney's Office will review whether Berndt can also be charged with unlawful use of a telecommunications device, which carries the same punishment.

Officials wanted to make sure parents were comfortable and felt safe so officers, including the chief, visited the elementary schools throughout the day.

"Obviously we want to be well prepared if there is an incident, but the vast majority of that effort is just to help people stay calm," says District Administrator Tom Benson.

Benson says the same precautions were taken at all schools, since the threat was not targeted but many scared parents were still worried, saying they didn't get any notice from the district.

Cynthia Varela has two children in the Reedsburg School District. Her son is in middle school and she felt safe to send him, but after she heard about the possible threat to the elementary schools, she kept her 9-year-old daughter home.

"I told her, I'd rather have her safe at home than at school and something happen to her," Varela tells 27 News. "It was wrong for them to let [Berndt] go. He still could have done something to the school no matter what."

Benson tells 27 News 200 students didn't go to school across the district Thursday, parents citing the threat for keeping them home. There are about 2,650 students in the Reedsburg district.

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REEDSBURG (WKOW) --- Reedsburg Police arrested a 21-year-old Reedsburg man Wednesday night after he posted a threat regarding shooting up an elementary school.

Dakota J. Berndt is charged with Disorderly Conduct and has been released from jail on signature bond.  Additional charges are pending.

Reedsburg Police say Berndt posted the threat on his Facebook page, and it was removed within an hour of posting it.  Berndt was arrested at his home around 10 p.m. Wednesday.  Police say he did not have any firearms in his home.

Police were posted at Reedsburg Area Schools as a precaution.

Reedsburg School District Administrator Tom Benson tells 27 News that Reedsburg Police told him that the threat was minimal or non-existent.

Benson says they are not releasing what school the threat was towards to parents or media.  The school will send out a letter or automated phone call to parents regarding the threat now that police have issued a press release.

As for school attendance Thursday, Benson says it was noticeably lower at all 5 elementary schools, as well as middle and high schools.  The reason parents gave for keeping their kids home Thursday was due to the threat, according to Benson.

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