MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Columbia High School had a Code Yellow "shelter in place" alert on the morning of November 11, when a threat to the school was made via social media.
Columbia High School Principal Elizabeth Aaron sent the following via email to the school community after the incident:
Dear Members of our Columbia Community:
Early today, administrators and teachers received information about the possibility of Columbia students having posted images and words related to an act of violence against our school. With the information provided, I contacted Maplewood Police. They worked with us quickly to identify any real threat or danger and we placed our building, during our Period 1 class, on a Code Yellow/Shelter-in-Place. A Code Yellow condition is one in which our staff and students remain in place, allows us to easily locate staff or students should we need them, and for us to move around the building without impediment or delay.
During the event, we were also in constant contact with district administrators and our Superintendent.
As students arrived for their Period 2 classes, we asked them to wait outside while we continued to work on the matter. When Maplewood Police cleared the building for entry, we assisted them by having students enter in small groups through our front doors, supervised by Maplewood Police and school administrators, counselors, teachers, and deans.
Students were patient and cooperative throughout this process, and we thank them for that. We also appreciate the work we know you have done at home to help your students understand that their cooperation during any event – drill or real – is paramount to their safety. This morning’s events served as testament to how well we do that work at Columbia High School with our local police and public safety officials.
We directed students to their Period 2 class, where we took our daily attendance. At 10 a.m, we rang our bell to allow students time to go to their lockers and then move to their Period 4 (dropping Period 3) class, which took place at and for its regularly-scheduled time.
We used our morning announcement time to commemorate the sacrifices and service of our veterans and our a cappella group, Unaccompanied Minors, sang an arrangement of the National Anthem by one of our students. Then a member of our junior class played Taps on his trumpet.
Please take time tonight to review safe social media practices with your students, remind them that references to guns, violence, or other crimes can elevate what they think may be a ‘harmless’ post to an issue that creates the conditions we had at CHS this morning. A comment or posting by a student or one that a student chooses to re-post may result in charges of making terroristic threats and can result in suspension or expulsion from school.
Please be aware that support services and counseling that you or your students may need are available here at Columbia High School should you feel you need them to assist your students in making healthy and smart choices about social media and the many other challenges of adolescence.
Please continue to take steps to monitor your students’ online lives, social media profiles, and connections. Should you not have yet chosen to do so, you may find it eye-opening and a starting point of conversation that is critical to your students’ health and well-being. Our Director of Guidance and Counseling, Dr. Jennifer Giordano, and her staff are able and ready to assist you should you need their help.
Your students’ lives on Instagram, Facebook, YikYak, Snapchat and other similar sites may be ones that strengthen their friendships. They can also be detrimental to their health and safety. Your work to help your students recognize and navigate the differences is critical.
Please be in touch with your students’ counselors, Assistant Principal, or my office should you have any questions.
Finally, should you ever have information about a threat or safety issue regarding our school, please be directly in touch with the Maplewood Police at 973-762-1234 or, if you think it to be an emergency, at 911.
We thank you for your support as always, of all things Cougar,
Elizabeth M. Aaron, MAT, M. Ed.