Nearly-simultaneous threats hit two Ocean County schools
Phone threats that arrived within a matter of minutes at schools in two disparate parts of Ocean County prompt swift action by district officials and police.
Messages prompted a brief evacuation of Lanoka Harbor Elementary in Lacey, and sheltering in place at Rosenauer School in Jackson, both at approximately 10:45 AM.
Lacey Township Schools Superintendent Craig Wigley did not elaborate on the nature of the threat, but Jackson Police noted on their Facebook page that a caller there said that a weapon-toting intruder was en route.
Wigley took the step of evacuating the building. "Fortunately for us, Ocean County Sheriff's officers and K-9 units were training right nearby," he said. They obliged with a room-by-room sweep which proved the threat to be empty. Students returned to classes by about 12 Noon, he said.
Jackson police say that they are tracing the origin point of the call to Rosenauer, and despite the absence of an actual threat, sheltering in place continues through the afternoon, police and security details are augmented, and modified sheltering orders were issued to the other schools in the Jackson district.
Jackson police also urged parents not to respond in person, noting that anyone attempting to enter school buildings without authorization would be confronted by law enforcement.
Within 15 minutes, at 10:58 AM, a suspicious call arrived at the Marlboro Jewish Center Annex, which hosts a preschool. Children were temporarily sheltered at nearby Frank Dugan Elementary until investigations in the building wrapped up at 12:27 PM.
The probe continues under the aegis of Marlboro PD Detective Edward Ungrady. He can be reached by e-mail or by phone, 732-536-0100
At this time, it is too early to speculate whether the methods and timing indicate a resurgence of swatting incidents, calls from outside the targeted areas aided by caller ID masking, that plagued school districts across the country in 2015. One series of incidents in Monmouth County led to a year in prison for a Connecticut man in October of that year.
The incidents also signal an uptick in this type of activity in the past three weeks. A threat scrawled on a rest room wall in a Toms River school in December led to criminal charges against a student, and anti-Semitic graffiti in a Toms River playground, last seen almost a year ago, resurfaced in another recreation area in the township this week.