Student named in message that spurred lockdown sues Middleton school district

Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 5:45 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Middleton High School student whose name appeared in a text message that identified him by name and incorrectly accused him of having a gun in his backpack filed a lawsuit against the district on Wednesday.

The suit alleges many of the people who received the Jan. 24 message, which was sent during a lockdown at the high school, came to believe the teenage boy was “a dangerous, violent lawbreaker.” The filing claims many recipients began shunning the teen while others exhibited hostility. As a result, the boy’s mother determined he could no longer finish his education at the school.

The plaintiff lists damages that include physical and emotional distress as well as injury to the student’s reputation. It does not seek a specific dollar amount or other relief, asking instead for the court to determine compensatory damages. While the student is listed as the sole plaintiff in the case and is not redacted on the complaint obtained by NBC15 News, we are not including his name in this story because of his age.

NBC15 News reached out to Middleton Cross Plains Area School District about the lawsuit and has not received a statement. This story will be updated with any official response. Both the district and Middleton High Principal Peg Shoemaker are listed as defendants.

The teen’s name was included in a mass text message that Shoemaker explained at the time was intended only for staff members but went to students and family members as well. According to the lawsuit, the message read:

Middleton High Sch: Staff, We received word that a student was on campus with a gun in his backpack. The student’s name is (redacted by NBC15 News). We believe he has exited the building, but have not confirmed. Please continue to keep students calm.

Message as quoted in lawsuit

On the day of the incident, Shoemaker apologized for including the student’s name in a message that ended up going to non-staff members, adding that she planned to follow up with the family to explain what happened. In the statement, she attributed the error to a software malfunction. The message was sent using the Remind app, which is intended to deliver urgent messages to employees.

According to the Middleton Police Dept. report at the time, a Middleton High School resource officer heard from a staff member that the student may have a firearm, spurring the immediate lockdown as authorities began their search. The student, who was off-campus during most of the lockdown, was located after approximately 45 minutes and taken into custody without incident, the police department stated.

Middleton Police Capt. Jeremy Geiszler confirmed to NBC15 News that no weapon was found on the student at the time. A separate video message from Middleton Cross Plains School District Superintendent Dr. Dana Monogue indicated no weapon was found on campus either.

The lockdown, which went into effect around 12:30 p.m. and was lifted by 2 p.m., also spurred similar precautions at Clark Street Community School and Kromrey Middle School.

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