SPARTA, NJ – A photo posted on social media has led to heightened concerns about safety in a number of area towns. A student from High Point High School had posted a photo of himself with a gun pointed at his head, mocking a suicide threat, according to Sparta Police Lt. John Lamon.
The photo was posted following recent suicides of a Newton High School student and two High Point High School alumni between the ages of 18-21. A third High Point High School alumna survived the attempt Lamon said.
With the tragedy of the suicides so fresh in the minds of so many in the area, the Instagram photo quickly turned into a barrage of social media postings. Students from all over the area including High Point, Sparta, Pope John, Morris Catholic and Dover were part of the social medial postings, according to Lamon.
“It could have been only one student [from the school] making a comment but the town is then included,” Lamon said. “It used to be that the students were only in contact with other students from their immediate area, but with social media that’s all changed.”
The back and forth comments among the students culminated in the threat of a face to face confrontation, a fight involving the area students.
“It was supposed to happen tonight or tomorrow,” Lamon said. “Originally it was supposed to be at Skylands Ice World, then it was thought to be at Skylands Stadium and most recently at High Point High School.”
Lamon also said that they have heard that the whole thing has been called off.
“We don’t know what is credible or not,” Lamon said. They did not want to ignore the issue “in case there was something to it” and are aware that it has caused people to "complain they are upset" by the release of information.
Sparta High School, High Point High School, Pope John High School, as well as Skylands Ice World, have all reached out to the families informing them of the potential for a problem.
Lamon said officials at High Point High School have “already dealt with the student. They brought him in and did a threat assessment and let him remain in school. The gun in the photo was a BB gun and the student reportedly said he ‘only did it as a joke.’”
The notice on the High Point High School website says, in part, “While the investigation does not indicate any cause for alarm, High Point Regional High School will continue to display vigilance at all school and after school activities to ensure the safety of the school community.”
Pope John has increased its police presence for their football game tomorrow against Paramus Catholic, from two officers to four, according to Lamon.
Sparta is playing football tonight, Friday, at West Milford High School. Sparta will be sending additional staff to be on the sidelines, according to Sparat Superintendent Michael Rossi.
West Milford’s Athletic Director Joseph Trentacosta said they were aware of the situation and “even though we’re not involved we did increase the number of police and staff that will be at the game."
“It is just something we are keeping an eye on,” Lamon said.