BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - In a Tuesday late afternoon Honeywell Alert message sent to the Berkeley Heights school community, Superintendent Judy Rattner directed the school community to read a letter about an incident that occurred at Columbia Middle School. The posted letter vaguely explained the incident involved a "Vine video" posted by a student that required an investigation by the Berkeley Heights Police Department.
The vague nature of the letter caused parents to react with fear and concern for the safety of their children. Rattner has subsequently posted on the district website a follow-up letter to further explain the district's actions regarding the incident:
Dear Member of the School Community:
I wanted to follow up on the letter I shared with you yesterday regarding the investigation of the incident at Columbia Middle School. It is important for everyone to understand that although you may want specifics about the incident, I am unable to divulge details because it could compromise the ongoing investigation. I am concerned, because in the absence of information, sometimes rumors are circulated which are unsubstantiated. I want you to know that the posted video that initiated the investigation was not an original student video but a 6-second snippet of a prior school shooting. I have heard some statements that the incident targeted several specific students. I want to assure you that there is no evidence of such at this time and if someone has knowledge of this they should provide that information to the Berkeley Heights Police immediately. I also want you to know that whenever there is a concern that a student or students are being targeted - the administration would be in contact with the parent and the police immediately.
As I shared with you yesterday, although we believe that there is not an imminent threat at this time, the BHP were present at Columbia today and will continue their presence in order to maintain a safe school environment.
I chose to use the incident at Columbia yesterday as a reminder to ALL parents to keep the lines of communication open with your children. Check with them to make sure there is an adult they feel comfortable speaking with regarding any concerns they may have. Please help them to understand that it is best to provide any information they may have to the proper authorities who in turn can determine the validity and seriousness of that information. It is important to note that it is much better to share information that may in fact not be substantiated than it is to not share information that may have prevented a disastrous situation.
I appreciate the partnership that has been established with the parents, police, and the community which is focused on the safety of all of our children.
Superintendent of Schools
TAP Into Berkeley Heights will continue to bring more information as it becomes available.