DENVILLE —Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon Immediately deployed the highly-trained, tactical Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT), the K-9 Section and Bomb Unit upon learning the Morris County School of Technology went into lockdown mode at 7:35 a.m. Friday, May 10, based upon what police believed at the time was a credible threat of violence targeting the Denville-based school.
Denville Police at 7:35 a.m. Friday received information reporting that an act of violence was going to occur at the School of Technology, and almost simultaneously, the school itself received similar information from a second source.
As both staff and students were arriving on campus for the school day, an immediate decision to ensure the safety of the students, staff and campus was made and the school was placed on lockdown. Students and faculty on site initiated lockdown procedures by securing themselves in classrooms. All arriving students and faculty were turned away to return to their sending districts, home or to a supervised staging area to await further instructions from the school.
Sheriff Gannon immediately responded to the school on Route 53 and Morris County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Mark Spitzer, who oversees the Bureau of Law Enforcement, went to the area designated for parents to gather.
The Morris County Sheriff’s Office SERT team, K-9 and Bomb Unit detectives remained on the premises while a Sheriff’s Officer assisted Denville police in conducting a room by room search that lasted more than 100 minutes before the premises were deemed to be safe.
As soon as the school was placed in lockdown, an intensive investigation into the initial reports, which originated on the Snapchat social media platform, was conducted with the assistance of the Butler Police Department and the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department.
Authorities determined that a current threat did not exist at the Morris County School of Technology and the search concluded around 9:20 a.m., when the lockdown was lifted. School administrators determined that school would continue for the day but students were free to leave, under parental supervision.
Standing alongside Morris County School of Technology Superintendent Scott Moffitt, Denville Police Captain Jeff Tucker, Principal Lynn Jackson, and School Resource Officer Kristian Sandman, Sheriff Gannon addressed parents and students in the school cafeteria around 10:30 a.m.
“We take these incidents extremely seriously. Our most vulnerable populations are in schools. They’re our students. They’re our grandchildren. They’re our children. They’re professionals, paraprofessionals, teachers, all the people who make it work,” Sheriff Gannon said to the students and parents.
The Sheriff praised the response of the school district and the Denville Police Department to what was treated as a credible threat to the lives of students and faculty at the Morris County School of Technology.
“A threat came in this morning. It was deemed a credible threat by the police department. An unknown actor and the time of it was around 7:35 a.m., which was consistent with students arriving at the school. There was no other decision to make than the decision that was made. And everyone stands by that,” Sheriff Gannon said.
Sheriff Gannon, in collaboration with the Morris County Chiefs of Police Association, Morris County school districts, and mental health professionals, in 2018 founded the RSVP-3 program, which stands for Responsible School Violence Prevention, Preparation, Protection.
RSVP-3’s components include tactical training for police departments so they are fully prepared to enter schools in the event of violence and developing a system of assessing threats so that none fall through the cracks. The federal Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and the Morris County Board of Freeholders have contributed $75,000 each to the RSVP-3 program.
Also responding to the incident at the school were the Denville Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad, Denville Volunteer Fire Department Rescue Task Force, Denville Township Office of Emergency Management, New Jersey State Police, Parsippany Police Department and the Montville Township Police Department.