Although Emerson school officials said a purported threat by a 7th grader wasn't as serious as some parents thought, police are filing a delinquency complaint against him.
Police Chief Michael Mazzeo told Daily Voice on Friday that he expected the complaint alleging "alarming" threats to be filed against the 13-year-old Emerson Junior-Senior High School student this Monday.
Delinquency complaints are heard by judges behind closed doors in the Family Division of Superior Court in Hackensack. This is intended to protect the youngster's identity, eliminating a potential obstacle to rehabilitation.
A plan ordinarily is worked out under which the juvenile must follow certain requirements that could include community service and counseling, among other steps.
Schools Supt. Brian Gatens told parents last weekend that the purported threat -- which parents said was to gun down particular classmates and record them being killed -- was never credible.
Gatens invited parents to his office for a few hours last Saturday to repeat his message.
He also emailed students in grades 7–12 last Sunday asking them to talk confidentially with staff members if they had any concerns about other students.
“You are not being a ‘snitch’ when you act in the best interests of your classmates,” the superintendent wrote.
Parents insisted that the boy specifically threatened individual students and that the pending complaint by police against the boy was proof that there was, indeed, cause for concern.
"This wasn’t 'overheard',” parent Stefanie El-Ansari said. "This was done to my son's face. And his friends' faces."
"It was heard repeatedly by many students many times. Not once over a week or two," parent Vicky Tsolomytis added. "Student made rifle shooting motions to students, including my son, when he was greeted in a friendly manner."
El-Ansari posted a video on social media accusing Gatens and others of not taking the threat seriously -- and then lying about it to parents.
Gatens, in turn, said El-Ansari's reaction was an example of how "an out-of-context and overheard statement can mutate into so much more," while emphasizing that trained district officials fully investigated and determined there was no imminent threat to school safety or security.
Administrators and educators are "well-versed" in what credible threats look and sound like, the superintendent emphasized -- which is why, he said, the response in this particular instance didn't require an emergency call to police.
"We know what situations call for those responses," Gatens said.
"What complicates this matter, and has added to the confusion, is that a parent reached out to the Emerson Police Department before the school administration did," Gatens said.
"The school district enjoys a strong relationship with the EPD, and we are grateful for their assistance in following up in this matter," he added in an email to parents last weekend. "They are invaluable to our work in helping to foster safe and secure school environments."
Gatens said the boy has become the victim of rumor-mongering and hate -- something he and his loved ones will have to deal with.
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