MAHWAH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The mayor of Mahwah, New Jersey is requesting that uniformed police officers be placed in every school within the district after officials looked into a possible threat purportedly made months ago by an eighth grader.
Officials say they were checking out the rumor of the threat allegedly made by the student “to shoot up” Ramapo Ridge Middle School on Friday, Feb. 23.
Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet said after looking into the possible threat, “it’s all been discounted.”
“He has not made these threats, he’s been released from school but for other reasons I can’t get into it because this juvenile has very sensitive issues,” Laforet told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams on Tuesday.
Mahwah school district officials say the threat report was made several months ago and that police were notified from the beginning, investigating and meeting with the student and the student’s parents several times.
Mahwah mom Kim Defelice was among many who were stunned to learn that police were notified, but the schools superintendent didn’t notify parents until last Friday — two days after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“It’s very nerve-wracking,” she said. “My son is in the elementary school. I’m scared.”
Laforet said he found out the same way they did, through an email.
“People are frustrated because they can’t get answers,” he said.
While the mayor points out that the superintendent says the threats were unconfirmed and unsubstantiated, he said moving forward, “the pointing of fingers and who knew when and whatever, I want you to know that I am sure our police department has done absolutely everything to assure the safety of our children.”
The district claims they have since taken steps to remove the student from the school for the remainder of the school year.
In a Facebook post Saturday, Laforet called for uniformed police officers to be stationed in each of the district schools.
“The presence of an armed uniformed patrol officer in a marked police car at each of the schools will act as a deterrent and provide immediate response time should a threat be made against any school facility in the interim, this will result in additional police overtime costs being incurred, but so be it,” the mayor said. “Our residents, students and District personnel deserve to be safe when attending the Township schools.”
Mahwah school officials said there will “continue to be a heightened presence of Mahwah police officers throughout the school district as we work to maintain a safe learning environment for students, parents, staff, and faculty.”
Other New Jersey schools are taking preemptive measures in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Florida, including East Brunswick, where armed officers will now be placed in all of their schools in addition to the unarmed retired police officers that currently patrol the district.
“I think they need it nowadays,” said parent Carol Goodman. “It’s sad but I think it keeps our students safer.”
“As a parent, I’m saddened that we are here but I will feel much better knowing what the first line of defense looks like in our schools and I hope we will never have to use it,” said East Brunswick Public School Board President Todd Simmens.
Tuesday afternoon, Governor Phil Murphy announced his administration will take steps at the state level to be more vigilant and focus on prevention.
“I think any parent watching should feel that we are doing everything that we can,” Murphy said. “We’re both learning from what’s happened in these awful tragedies, and we’re learning from some sort of false alarms in our own state.”
Last week in Nutley, schools closed Friday after officials said an Instagram video surfaced showing a teen, believed to be a student at Nutley High School, flaunting a variety of guns along with photos of students and a school.
Investigators immediately stepped in, taking the alleged creator into custody and questioning him and others seen in the footage.
New Jersey’s director of homeland security says the department will continue to prioritize the identification of suspicious activity and mental health indicators, and ensure a clear path for reporting from the public.