GRAFTON — While the response was appropriate at the time, Grafton School Superintendent Jeff Nelson indicated there are areas of improvement for the district following the May 15 incident involving a John Long Middle School teacher who allegedly made threats and disturbing comments to a classroom of students.
In coordination with Grafton Police Chief Jeff Caponera and School Resource Officer Tony Alfonsi, the district conducted an after-action review, providing follow-up communication to families and staff about both the district’s response and communication regarding the incident.
"This review indicated that there were areas that were handled appropriately but also identified some shortcomings in our initial response," Nelson said in a district statement released Thursday.
According to the criminal complaint filed against him, David Schroeder, 46, was charged with one felony count of making a terrorist threat to his class of seventh-grade math students after he discovered two students in possession of a drawing with swastikas and other Nazi symbolism.
One of the students in the classroom reported that when Schroeder — whose family is Jewish — found the drawing, he confronted the entire class, telling them it was not appropriate and that he would send his daughter to their homes with a baseball bat, go scorched earth on them and wished pain upon them and their families, according to the complaint.
He also added that all Jews have guns and that he had 17 guns in his basement and that he would “F” them up, the complaint said.
The student said Schroeder was screaming or yelling while making the statements and that they were directed toward the entire class and not one particular student, according to the complaint.
The administration was notified shortly after of Schroeder’s comments and he was escorted from the building.
After reviewing the incident, Caponera affirmed that the district acted appropriately based on the information that was available.
“Ensuring student safety is the district’s top priority, and administration took immediate action by removing the teacher from the classroom and escorting him off the premises,” Nelson said.
However, Caponera said that the “premature release of information” by a separate social media outlet caused unnecessary panic, resulting in several parents rushing to the school to come pick their children up.
Nelson also indicated that the administration did not immediately have the full story of what happened in the classroom.
“Although our intent was to assure the school community that there was no active threat to school safety, we were unaware at the time that the teacher had allegedly used the word ‘gun’ in his remarks,” the superintendent added. “Now we understand that this initial message caused confusion and/or concern among our families, and I do apologize for that. Using the phrase ‘rumors are untrue’ in our statement was a well-intended miss.”
To better manage these incidents moving forward, Caponera recommended that the Police Department and district work together to develop template communications that can be easily customized for specific situations.
The chief also suggested revisiting last year’s proposal to add another school resource officer to provide immediate assistance, which Nelson said the district couldn’t get the necessary grant for and due to the timing, both the village and school district budgets were unable to hire someone.
“The safety and well-being of our students is our number one priority. Chief Caponera and I want to assure you that our staff is committed to ensuring that all of our Grafton students and staff are safe and that we have a successful conclusion to the 2022-23 school year,” Nelson said, noting that counselors are available to provide additional support to any students in need.
Schroeder, who was held on $10,000 cash bail, was released from jail May 16, according to court records. He was ordered to surrender his weapons to the Ozaukee County Sheriff's Office and cannot possess any dangerous weapons, including firearms or ammunition. He was also ordered not to come within 500 feet of any Grafton school and to have no contact with: any Grafton school or any Grafton public school student, with the exception of his own children.
John Long Principal Chris Weiss and Alfonsi are continuing to interview students and investigate the incident. Nelson said he has also reached out to a local rabbi to discuss additional educational ideas that could be included into the district’s curriculum to help students realize the seriousness of drawing a swastika.