UNION, NJ – Union’s mayor, police director and Township Committee decried and condemned the administrators and moderators of the Union, NJ Residents Facebook Forum for misinformation and fear spread during the two lockdown incidents at Union High School on Friday.

“Yesterday’s event was routine in every sense of the word,” said Union Police Director Zieser in the township’s press release.  “It would have been resolved in a matter of minutes, but for the reckless rumors and incendiary falsehoods spread across the Union, NJ Residents Facebook Forum.”  Zieser said the Forum’s failure to display good judgment caused “undue chaos and a potentially life threatening situation.”

Two separate lockdowns occurred at the High School on Friday.  According to the Union County Prosecutor's Office, the Friday morning lockdown occurred when it was discovered that two students had weapons inside the school. Union Police responded and seized both a knife and hammer.  The two students were removed from the premises. The first lockdown was then lifted.  According to Union High School Principal Mark Hoyt, the morning lockdown ended after about an hour.

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A second lockdown was imposed by school security personnel later that morning, upon receiving information that a student may have had a firearm inside the building, according to the Prosecutor’s Office. As rumor spread through the student body, a large group of students ran from the building prior to the arrival of law enforcement, resulting in an inadvertent injury to one student during the flight.

In a post on Saturday in the Resident’s Forum, administrator Jason Krychiw said, “this is not the first lockdown that has occurred at UHS since this page has been around, but it was the worst in terms of what was being posted here."  His post continued, "I heard there were students with knives, a machete, a gun, that shots were fired, that someone was stabbed, that gangs were roaming the halls, and more.”  Krychiw said, “it was like a bad game of telephone.  Not only did this make parents more concerned, it made students more scared and it actively impeded the police trying to do their jobs.”

According to the township press release, “the Union, NJ Residents Facebook Forum, which has been routinely criticized for allowing hate speech, pervasive bullying and unchecked rumors, widely circulated multiple rumors of a stampede, an active shooter, reports of injuries and students rushed to the hospital.  Perhaps most egregious were that these reports led law enforcement agencies to treat what should have been a routine check into a multi-agency SWAT level event.”

“The wanton recklessness displayed by the administrators and moderators of the Union, NJ Residents Facebook Forum was the sole reason for turning a routine matter into a full scale law enforcement event,” continued the township’s press release.  “This isn’t a case of free speech.  Free speech doesn’t allow you to yell fire in a crowded movie theater.”

On Friday evening, Union High School Principal Mark Hoyt sent a letter to parents.  In it, Hoyt expressed frustration with social media platforms that "were used to spread a false narrative" regarding the events.  "Misinformation only adds to the fear and anxiety already felt by parents, students and staff," read his letter.  He praised students and staff during the events and said he was "grateful for the swift response from Union Police Department and County Law Enforcement Agencies".

“I call on the administrators and moderators of this site, several of whom are employees of the very school district that was put into jeopardy, to immediately suspend all activity,” said Union Mayor Michele Delisfort.

In his Saturday post, Krychiw solicited feedback from Forum members on how situations such as Friday’s should be handled in the future.  “There is an option to make all posts and comments subject to review,” the post read.  “Which means, unless an admin or mod approves a post, it does not get posted.”  He added that some people have suggested this during times of emergency in order to streamline factual information and prevent false rumors.

Late last year, the Township Committee adopted a resolution strongly urging the administrators of the Union, NJ Residents Facebook Forum to open the forum in an act of transparency to allow any and all viewpoints and to cease using the Township’s seal.  The resolution can be found on the Township’s webpage (here).

The complete press release from the Township of Union is below:

This afternoon, Mayor Michele Delisfort, the entire Township Committee, and Police Director Daniel Zieser strongly condemned the Administrators and Moderators of the Union, NJ Residents Facebook Forum for irresponsibly and recklessly failing to contain the false narrative surrounding yesterday’s low level non-event at Union High School.  Their failure directly attributed to turning that event into a nightmare scenario of lockdowns, SWAT teams, police dogs and multi agency response. 

“Yesterday’s event was routine in every sense of the word,” said Director Zieser.  “It would have been resolved in a matter of minutes, but for the reckless rumors and incendiary falsehoods spread across the Union, NJ Residents Facebook Forum.  Had the Moderators and Administrators acted responsibly by not starting and spreading rumors, this event would not have been a non-event.  Their failure to display good judgment caused undue chaos and a potentially life threatening situation.” 

During yesterday’s event, the Union, NJ Residents Facebook Forum, which has been routinely criticized for allowing hate speech, pervasive bullying and unchecked rumors, widely circulated multiple rumors of a stampede, an active shooter, reports of injuries and students rushed to the hospital.  Perhaps most egregious were that these reports led law enforcement agencies to treat what should have been a routine check into a multi agency SWAT level event.

“The wanton recklessness displayed by the Administrators and Moderators of the Union, NJ Residents Facebook Forum was the sole reason for turning a routine matter into a full scale law enforcement event.  This isn’t a case of free speech.  Free speech doesn’t allow you to yell fire in a crowded movie theater! I call on the Administrators and Moderators of this site, several of whom are employees of the very school district that was put into jeopardy, to immediately suspend all activity,” said Mayor Michele Delisfort.

Late last year, the Township Committee adopted a resolution strongly urging the administrators of the Union, NJ Residents Facebook Forum to open the forum in an act of transparency to allow any and all viewpoints and to cease using the Township’s seal in a manner to mislead individuals into thinking that it was the official Township webpage.  This resolution can be found on the Township’s webpage (here).

Related stories:  

Update: Two Separate Lockdowns at Union High School on Friday; Social Media Frenzy Leads to Misinformation and Fear, says Principal Hoyt

Principal Hoyt Addresses Ongoing Union High School Lockdown in Message to Parents

Lockdown at Union High School