WESTFIELD, NJ — The following is a joint statement by Mayor Shelley Brindle and Westfield Board of Education President Gretchan Ohlig:
This week, Superintendent Margaret Dolan, Business Administrator Dana Sullivan, Board of Education President Gretchan Ohlig, Mayor Shelley Brindle, Town Administrator Jim Gildea and Police Chief David Wayman met once again to discuss school security issues and, specifically, to address the recent incidents that have occurred at Edison Intermediate School over the past week. To alleviate concerns about the nature of these incidents, we have asked Chief Wayman to release the following additional information:
On Wednesday, February 21, a 9-1-1 call was received during which the caller stated they were being physically harmed and then immediately hung up. A short time later, it was determined that the call was initiated from the area of Edison Intermediate School, prompting the police to go to EIS and advise the principal of what had occurred. The school district initially implemented a lockdown, and then it was determined to initiate a “shelter in place” in an attempt to locate the person in distress and determine if they were in need of medical attention. During the “shelter in place,” normal classroom activities resumed. Once the caller was identified and it was determined that no threat was present, the "shelter in place" was lifted. As school officials address this administratively, a police investigation is continuing.
On Wednesday, February 28, Westfield police received a report of a potential unspecified social media threat against Edison Intermediate School and the administration. This report was brought to the attention of the principal and it was determined to evacuate the school until the police confirmed that no threats were present. Once confirmed, the school was repopulated and normal school activities resumed. The individual who made the social media posting was identified and is being addressed administratively by school officials and a police investigation is continuing.
On Thursday, March 1, a student at Edison Intermediate School reported to the school administration that a possible threat against the school was written in a restroom. The police were notified, and after meeting with the principal and investigating the vandalism, it was determined that the threat was not credible. An investigation is currently underway to identify the vandal.
It is important to emphasize that, while the uncertainty around these events can be concerning, at no time was the safety of any students or faculty compromised.
To reassure parents and students, beginning next week and continuing through the end of the school year, the town will be increasing police presence at each of the schools throughout the day. The presence will consist primarily of patrol car presence, with a police officer on foot as warranted. The board of education and town will discuss what permanent police measures can be implemented when the new school year begins in September.
Additionally, the BOE and town are working on establishing consistent communication protocols between the police, the school district and the public for any future incidents that will better inform parents about the nature and severity of a threat as soon as it is determined, without compromising the safety and security of students or any ongoing investigations.
This is certainly a remarkable time with respect to school security requiring unprecedented cooperation between the town and the board of education. It is always difficult to assess the most effective way to communicate in a crisis when the top priority is the safety of our students and staff. We will continue to work together and learn from every incident.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any comments or questions.