North Bergen school officials said last week that a gun threat written in a bathroom at North Bergen High School ultimately posed no danger, but it was taken seriously for the safety of the students and faculty.
Principal Paschal Tennaro and the police said the threat alluded to the date of Thursday, June 7, although he would not elaborate. Talk of the threat spread rapidly after officials sent a letter to parents earlier in the week informing them of the matter, and school activities were canceled on Wednesday night.
On Thursday, a student posted on Twitter, “In two minutes I’ll be able to say I survived North Bergen High School shooting day.”
Another student on the same forum wrote, “Just a boring ordinary day in North Bergen High School.”
“They understand the importance of doing these things and that makes them feel safer.” – Principal Tennaro
Deputy Chief Robert Dowd said, “I wouldn’t call it a threat. There was a message written at the stall on a bathroom...that caused some concern for school officials. Our police officers responded...and conducted an investigation. We didn’t deem the threat to be actually a serious threat but the school had opted to enhance some safety procedures as a measure of caution.”
“First I took it very seriously, I took it seriously to the point that we did a practice drill for us…,” said Tennaro last week. “I explained to the kids in the high school. All the kids went into it knowing why I did the things that I did do. We had a suspicion of something which I knew was not valid. I used this as an excellent example to go on ‘high alert,’ red alert and be able to test out our security system.”
Tennaro said that he has a suspicion as to who may have written the threat, there is no concrete evidence to support the claim.
He said the “red alert” for the school will continue until graduation on June 20, meaning more drills will be held.
Asks for student opinions
Tennaro also said he asked the students what they thought of the procedures and how the school can improve safety even further.
“The kids understood why we were practicing a red alert,” he said. “We practice at all times evacuations, lockdowns, we practice all that.”
The school has metal detectors already in place.
“Students were very positive and accepting,” said Tennaro. “They understand why it’s happening but I also allow them to be a part of the decision-making…by getting back to me with different ideas. My [students] are very sophisticated kind of kids and they understand the importance of doing these things and that makes them feel safer.”
Tennaro confirmed that he would never let any student enter the school if he thought there would be a threat to safety.
“At 4 o’clock [Wednesday] the building was sealed and the alarms were turned on,” said Tennaro. “The day before I had four or five police dogs inspect every inch of the high school.”
One student stated in a public post the day before on Facebook that he was going to “hide like a pro” if “a shooting happens tomorrow at North Bergen High School.”
On Friday, the student posted, “So their was no shooting in school today. Their were police officer all around hallways [sic].”
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org