UNION, NJ - Union High School underwent two lockdowns on Friday, implemented by school security, according to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.
The first lockdown occurred this morning, said the Prosecutors Office, 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.
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.
Union Police responded to the scene, supported by the Union County Prosecutor's Office, Union County Police Department, Union County Emergency Response Team, and officers from the K-9 units of the Union, Somerset, and Middlesex County Sheriff's Departments and the State Park Police. Given the incident at the school earlier in the day and the nature of the threat that gave way to the second lockdown, law enforcement conducted a sweep of the building.
At about 1:30 p.m., a modified lockdown was issued. Hoyt said after a thorough investigation, "it was determined that the statements made were not credible and there was not a student in possession of a firearm. There was, however, one minor injury to a student due to a fall."
When the building was deemed secure, at about 3:30 p.m., the school released the students.
The Union Police Department is continuing their investigation.
At about 6:45 p.m., Union High School Principal Mark Hoyt sent a letter to parents about Friday’s lockdown. In it, Hoyt describes both the morning incident, when the school was placed on a modified lockdown, and the later lockdown, which lasted until late afternoon. Hoyt also 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".
Hoyt's letter to parents read:
This morning, at approximately 7:45am, an incident occurred at Union High School. In response, the school was placed into a Modified Lockdown while administration, security, and Union Police Department addressed the situation. Students remained in their classrooms for the duration of the lockdown which lasted approximately an hour. No students or staff were harmed during this event.
Shortly after 11:00 am this morning, in an unrelated incident, Union Police Department received information indicating that a student was in possession of a firearm in school. As a result, Union High School was immediately placed in a Lockdown. At that time, Union Police assumed control of the investigation and dictated the scope of the emergency procedures implemented. Police officers and school administration investigated the statements in order to determine whether or not there was a credible threat to the safety and welfare of the students.
With the assistance of numerous law enforcement agencies, including several K-9 units, classrooms were searched and secured. After a thorough investigation, it was determined that the statements made were not credible and there was not a student in possession of a firearm. There was, however, one minor injury to a student due to a fall. In an abundance of caution and with the safety of the students and staff in mind, exit procedures were modified and students exited the building at approximately 3:30pm.
I am aware of how social media posts can fuel fear and disrupt our students and school. It was disheartening that various social media platforms were used to spread a false narrative regarding today’s events. Misinformation only adds to the fear and anxiety already felt by parents, students, and staff. School staff and Union Police Department acted quickly and decisively ensuring that no students would be harmed. Please understand that administration would not lift a lockdown unless we were certain that students would remain safe.
I understand the frustration parents and community members may feel when the school cannot answer specific questions about an incident and the consequences for involved students. Further, as a parent, I can relate to the fear and anxiety surrounding today’s incidents. We strive to give as much information as possible as soon as we are able to; however, due to our responsibilities to the safety and security of the students and staff, we are not always able to disseminate this information during an active event. We are also not able to share specific information about students and consequences they may have received. All staff members are bound by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which precludes us from discussing specific actions taken when dealing with students.
I am proud of the behavior of our students and staff during this event and grateful for the swift response from Union Police Department and County Law Enforcement Agencies. The safety and welfare of our students and staff will continue to be our priority at Union High School. As such, the school and district administration will continue to explore procedures to ensure that our school remains a safe environment for students to learn.
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