Pinelands Regional Schools Receive Second Threat Within Week

19-Year-Old Arrested, Sent for Mental Health Evaluation
Mar 13, 2018
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

The Pinelands Regional School District has experienced its second threat within a week. According to Acting Superintendent Cheryl Stevenson, there was a “new, non-specific threat” posted on Snapchat on Sunday evening. A screenshot of the Snapchat post was taken and forwarded to authorities. The threat was immediately reported to the Little Egg Harbor Police Department and investigated. Parents were also informed about the situation on Monday morning.

Stevenson said the threat was found to be “not credible.” She also said the student was taken into police custody.

The police released a statement on Monday afternoon that said the department had received information about the threat at approximately 8:30 p.m. Sunday. A 19-year-old male suspect was identified, located and taken into custody later that night.

Police searched the suspect’s residences in Eagleswood and Barnegat townships. Several Airsoft (replica weapons used in warfare sports that fire spherical plastic pellets) and paintball guns were seized by police, as were the subject’s electronic devices. The young man was charged with making terroristic threats. He was taken for mental health screening.

Making terroristic threats is a third-degree crime in New Jersey, the same as felonies in most other jurisdictions. It can result in three to five years in prison and fines of up to $15,000.

A reporter’s drive-by found the Pinelands campus was operating as normal on Monday morning with a discreet police presence.

Last Thursday a 15-year-old former Pinelands student who no longer lives in the district was taken into custody by police after allegedly sending a threatening message through the district’s internal messaging system. His homes were also searched, with no weapons discovered. That student, too, was taken for a mental health screening. Little Egg Harbor police said charges are pending for the March 8 incident, which caused a morning lockdown at both Pinelands High School and Junior High School. According to a student source, students were allowed to navigate between classes that day, but nobody was allowed to leave or enter the building until police concluded their investigation.

Little Egg Harbor Police Chief Richard J. Buzby Jr. released a statement that essentially served as a warning to prospective terroristic threat makers and pranksters: “With the national prevailing threat level being what it is, it shall be the policy of this Agency to vigorously investigate and prosecute all those responsible for school threat incidents. We would prefer to exercise our usual discretion handling issues with youthful offenders, but children are our most precious resource and their protection demands our vigilance and best efforts in these regards.”

The Pinelands Regional district is not alone. On Wednesday, March 7, seven Stafford Township Intermediate School sixth-grade boys were rounded up at the school and charged by police with making terroristic threats. They were later released to their parents.

The Educator’s School Safety Network, a group that tracks school threats by monitoring media reports, says it typically tracks approximately 10 threats or incidents a day at the nation’s schools, colleges and universities. Since the Valentine’s Day slaughter at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the organization has been averaging more than 70 a day.

— Rick Mellerup

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