LIVINGSTON, NJ – In response to the recent cyber threats made against the Livingston High School (LHS) community over the past several weeks, the Livingston Board of Education (LBOE), took the opportunity afforded at the Sept. 28 voting meeting to address the way the situation was and continues to be handled by thanking the administration, teaching staff, students, parents, law enforcement agencies and the community at large for their calm and collaborative response to these events.
Superintendent of Schools Christina Steffner publically thanked LHS Principal Mark Stern and his team for the leadership role they took in ensuring that students and staff remained safe and the building secure throughout the immediate investigation.
She also acknowledged the contributions of Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction, Patricia Boland, and Assistant Superintendent of Student Services, Lisa Capone-Steiger, who were on hand at the high school for the entire duration of the crisis, as well as Livingston Public Schools Manager of Communications and Community Outreach, Marilyn Lehren, who was responsible for keeping the community apprised of as many of the details as law enforcement agencies would allowed the school system to disseminate, given that the investigation was and continues to be active and ongoing.
“The principals from the other buildings offered all the support they could give. Everyone pitched in and did what they needed to do,” said Steffner. “The Association stepped up; teachers did what we asked them to do and more; and it really took a village. It was the worst of times but it brought out the best in people.”
In the best interest of the community, the Livingston Police Department, operating under the direction of Chief Craig Handschuch and Captain Gary Marshuetz, was credited with working vigilantly and always in tandem with the district to keep the LHS building tightly secured and to maintain a consistent presence at schools throughout the district to give the community peace of mind, although they had determined the threats to be non-credible, early on in the investigation. Throughout the investigation, police kept the school administrators updated so that they could make informed decisions about the safety and security of all students and staff present.
Steffner reported that, along the way, some important lessons on how to handle and manage a crisis of this magnitude were learned—lessons that the district intends to share as a group both at Livingston schools and with schools in surrounding districts who have reached out in the hopes of learning more from Livingston’s experience on how to be prepared for any eventuality.
Echoing many of Steffner’s sentiments, LBOE President Ronnie Spring reiterated that although the cyber threats were and continue to be the subject of an ongoing investigation by law enforcement agencies, these threats were deemed to be not credible and that there was no evidence to suggest they would ever be carried through.
Working together with law enforcement agencies, safety and security measures were effectively and immediately implemented for the benefit of all. Spring ensured all present that the LBOE and the schools continue to work proactively with the Livingston Police Department to address and improve school safety.
In fact, in January 2016, the district entered into a contract with an independent security company, which performed comprehensive security assessments of each school and provided the district with detailed security reports for each. The school administration continues to review these reports and implement the recommendations made.
“Every day, you entrust us with the care and safety of your children,” said Spring, thanking LHS students and addressing the parents. “You drop them off early, and they are often at school or school-sponsored activities until late in the evening. We take this charge very seriously and are unequivocally committed to ensuring your children’s safety. We understand how stressful this situation has been and we thank you for your cooperation and patience in allowing us to implement additional safety measures.”
“I think our goal now is to make sure that any students who were impacted get the support they need from our counseling services team,” Steffner said. “I cannot thank everyone enough for the amazing work that they did under really scary circumstances.”