Wednesday, November 11, 2015

UPDATE: Columbia High School Placed on Code Yellow Shelter-in-Place

Maplewood, New Jersey: Columbia High School on Parker Avenue was placed on a code yellow shelter-in-place lockdown at 8:15am on Wednesday morning. 

Students already inside the building for first period classes were not permitted to leave their classrooms for 30 minutes, and students who begin their day with second period class were locked outside of the building until 8:45am, when officials began admitting 20 students at a time. 

There was a large Maplewood Police Department presence at the scene. Principal Elizabeth Aaron told students that the code yellow was caused by security concerns regarding postings on social media. According to Maplewood Police, a ninth grade student from South Orange was arrested following an investigation. The student reportedly threatened a school shooting in an Instagram post.

Despite the code yellow, teachers were still able to enter the building using their swipe cards, though were quickly ordered to wait in classrooms by police officers.

Update: The following email was sent to parents this morning: 

"This morning CHS administrators were informed of a potential safety issue. They worked with the Maplewood and South Orange Police Departments to go into a code yellow shelter in place during first period as a precautionary measure.  Shelter in place means that no one is permitted to enter or leave the building, but that classes continue as usual.  With the assistance of the police, the code yellow has now been lifted, and all students and staff are safe.  We are returning to a normal Wednesday at CHS." 

Update: The following email was sent to parents by Principal Aaron this afternoon:

"Dear Members of our Columbia Community: Early today, administrators and teachers received information about the possibility of Columbia students having posted images and words related to an act of violence against our school. With the information provided, I contacted Maplewood Police. They worked with us quickly to identify any real threat or danger and we placed our building, during our Period 1 class, on a Code Yellow/Shelter-in-Place. A Code Yellow condition is one in which our staff and students remain in place, allows us to easily locate staff or students should we need them, and for us to move around the building without impediment or delay. During the event, we were also in constant contact with district administrators and our Superintendent. As students arrived for their Period 2 classes, we asked them to wait outside while we continued to work on the matter. When Maplewood Police cleared the building for entry, we assisted them by having students enter in small groups through our front doors, supervised by Maplewood Police and school administrators, counselors, teachers, and deans. Students were patient and cooperative throughout this process, and we thank them for that. We also appreciate the work we know you have done at home to help your students understand that their cooperation during any event – drill or real – is paramount to their safety. This morning’s events served as testament to how well we do that work at Columbia High School with our local police and public safety officials. We directed students to their Period 2 class, where we took our daily attendance. At 10 am, we rang our bell to allow students time to go to their lockers and then move to their Period 4 (dropping Period 3) class, which took place at and for its regularly-scheduled time. We used our morning announcement time to commemorate the sacrifices and service of our veterans and our a cappella group, Unaccompanied Minors, sang an arrangement of the National Anthem by one of our students. Then a member of our junior class played Taps on his trumpet. Please take time tonight to review safe social media practices with your students, remind them that references to guns, violence, or other crimes can elevate what they think may be a ‘harmless’ post to an issue that creates the conditions we had at CHS this morning. A comment or posting by a student or one that a student chooses to re-post may result in charges of making terroristic threats and can result in suspension or expulsion from school. Please be aware that support services and counseling that you or your students may need are available here at Columbia High School should you feel you need them to assist your students in making healthy and smart choices about social media and the many other challenges of adolescence. Please continue to take steps to monitor your students’ online lives, social media profiles, and connections. Should you not have yet chosen to do so, you may find it eye-opening and a starting point of conversation that is critical to your students’ health and well-being. Our Director of Guidance and Counseling, Dr. Jennifer Giordano, and her staff are able and ready to assist you should you need their help. Your students’ lives on Instagram, Facebook, YikYak, Snapchat and other similar sites may be ones that strengthen their friendships. They can also be detrimental to their health and safety. Your work to help your students recognize and navigate the differences is critical. Please be in touch with your students’ counselors, Assistant Principal, or my office should you have any questions. Finally, should you ever have information about a threat or safety issue regarding our school, please be directly in touch with the Maplewood Police at 973-762-1234 or, if you think it to be an emergency, at 911. We thank you for your support as always, of all things Cougar."

Columbia High School has had several lockdowns in recent years. On November 10th, 2014, the school was put under code red lockdown after a student allegedly brought brass knuckles to the school. In June, a code yellow lockdown was put in place after a student was allegedly found with a knife.

This story will be updated.   

Note: File Photo is of a previous lockdown at Columbia High School.

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