Sympathy over years of bullying led to a lesser charge being filed against the student suspected of making the homecoming week bomb threat at Greendale High School.
The criminal complaint filed late Friday afternoon outlines the way the suspect was reportedly treated by his classmates, including years of teasing and being voted onto homecoming court as a prank.
Knowing how Nicholas S. Olson, 17, was treated, the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office — with the backing of Greendale School District administrators — charged him with a single misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct. If convicted, he faces up to a $1,000 fine and/or up to 90 days in jail.
Had he been charged with the felony count of making a bomb scare, he could have faced up to $10,000 in fines and up to 1-1/2 years in prison, plus two years on community supervision. Olson is due to make his initial appearance in Milwaukee County Circuit Court on Wednesday afternoon.
Shortly after Greendale Patch reported a student had been arrested for making the threat, readers began commenting that the boy — who had not been named publicly — had been bullied by his classmates. While many hoped there would be consequences for whoever was responsible, others were sympathetic to what a victim of bullying faces.
A few suggested the family of the bullying victim contact an attorney about suing the district, saying more should have been done by administrators to protect the student from his classmates.
According to the complaint:
At 2:33 p.m. Sept. 20, someone from the Greendale High School administration called police to say a bomb threat had been discovered in a boys bathroom of the school.
When police arrived, Principal Steven Lodes took an officer to the bathroom, where they found the message "3 DAYS TILL BOOM JK OR AM I?" written in blue ink on the wall of a bathroom stall. This was the Thursday of homecoming week, with the dance planned for Saturday night.
No activities scheduled that day were canceled, but administrators asked the Milwaukee County Bomb Squad to sweep the campus on Sept. 21 before students arrived. A second sweep was conducted Sept. 24, before classes began the next week. No explosive devices were found either time.
As police investigated, an anonymous tip led them to Nicholas Olson. Police searched his locker and found notebooks and writings he appeared to have made, along with blue pens similar to the type used in the bathroom threat. The handwriting officers found in the locker appeared to closely match the writing on the wall.
Police spoke to Olson on Sept. 25, and say he admitted to writing the threat in the bathroom, because "he was upset and angry." Police also said "he did not have a plan to use any explosive device and further that he did not want to hurt anyone."
The officer knows Olson has been bullied, "teased and taunted by his classmates for many years," according to the criminal complaint, and that he had "just been voted onto the homecoming court as a 'joke' by other students." The officer said something similar happened during last school year's prom.
Police said Olson reported being teased all his life, and the investigating officer said he is "aware that the defendant is ostracized by the other students and appears very depressed due to the situation."
Police said the administration "had a deal of sympathy for the plight of this student." A district representative told the assistant district attorney who prepared the complaint that they agreed "the defendant should not be charged with a felony but rather a misdemeanor due to to the extenuating circumstances which may have led to his conduct."