Why are NJ schools getting so many threats lately?
LONG BRANCH — Police and school officials continue to deal with threats made against New Jersey schools a week after the mass shooting in Florida that left 17 dead.
Irvington High School was on lockdown on Wednesday after a former student posted a picture on Snapchat with the caption "I might shoot this s**t up," believed directed at the school, according to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.
Long Branch Police Chief Jason Roebuck wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday morning that his department was aware of pictures showing a gun on social media captioned, "Who ever wanna live don't go to lb high school" and, "The ones who not duckin be the first ones w toe tags."
"The person has been identified and interviewed. It was termed as 'a joke,' and yes not a very good one considering recent events," Roebuck said, adding his thanks for all who called and texted police about the picture.
Maple Shade, Hazlet, Jefferson and South Brunswick reported a stepped-up police presence in their schools following incidents that were all found to not be credible.
Toms River Schools and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office offered reassurances that the schools are safe and urged students and staff to say something if they see something.
The threats also led to charges against several students.
Maurice Elias, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University, said the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School helped to embolden those who may harbor anger that most people wouldn't act upon.
"It shouldn't be surprising that we see more of these expressions. I don't think its necessarily designed to rile people up as much as it is a chance to give people a chance to express something they've been holding in," Elias said.
He said many of his colleagues believe schools need to do a better job of helping kids learn how to manage their emotions.
"We all get dissatisfied with things, we all get angry, we all get upset. It's our emotional coping skills that keep us from acting harmfully towards each other."
Elias said that also goes for the Parkland students and others who have become vocal about gun violence or found some inner strength.
"We should not have to rely on crisis to empower our kids to get away from the computer screens and phone screens and show up and do things."
Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy said law enforcement stands ready to respond to investigate threats or act upon an active threat.
"We can't understand why people do what they do but law enforcement has to investigate when they're false, make sure the schools are prepared and do what we're trained for. "