Police, high schools step up security after threats of student violence

Conflict between students began on social media

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Local police departments and high schools increased patrols and security over the weekend after threats of a possible brawl involving students from several Sussex County high schools circulated on social media.

Police and the schools were made aware of the situation after social media posts suggested a conflict among students may move from cyberspace to a violent altercation at an agreed meeting site. The high schools included High Point, Sparta, Pope John XXIII, Morris Catholic, Dover and Sussex Tech.

But according to Sparta police Lt. John Lamon, no incident occurred.

“Nothing came of it, which we really didn’t think there was going to be anything,” Lamon said. “But it was something where we had to take the precautions.”

Throughout the weekend, Lamon said Sparta police had extra patrols at all of the sporting events held in Sparta. He also said that Hardyston police had extra patrols near Skylands Ice World, since it was mentioned as a possible site where the students were going to meet.

High Point had additional security at their Homecoming football game on Saturday against Morris Hills.

“We’ve encouraged students at the different schools that if they do hear anything, to let us know,” Lamon said, “but as of right now, everything’s been quiet. It sounds like it’s something that’s kind of just going to go away.”

Hardyston police Lt. Rob Zicarelli said Friday afternoon that they were “taking every precaution to ensure the safety of our youth and the safety of those areas of the town.”

“It’s a tough one,” Zicarelli said. “These are high school kids and social media, so sometimes things take off, but by no means are we dismissing it as a ‘kids being kids’ thing. We will take it seriously. We are going to assign the resources necessary to make sure that the community is safe, and we’ll go from there.”

A message posted on the High Point Regional High School website Friday, Oct. 6, states that school administration have been working on an investigation involving a potential conflict involving a small number of High Point students and students from several local high schools since the situation was brought to their attention Thursday, Oct. 5.

“The conflict which involved several students arose over social media posts and quickly spread through a number of school districts,” the statement continues. “Due to the nature of the posts and the potential for the conflict to go beyond social media, school administrators from all affected schools were made aware of the issue, and the incident was investigated.

“Local police for all schools were also notified of the situation out of an abundance of caution. The administration is actively working with the specific students involved and their families. While the investigation does not indicate any cause for alarm, High Point Regional High School will continue to display vigilance at all school and after-school activities to ensure the safety of the school community and visitors."

Sparta High School also released a statement regarding the situation, stating that the high school has been working with Sparta police. Students and parents of those believed to be directly involved were contacted and informed of the situation on Thursday afternoon.

“We would like to alert all parents to be aware of their children's activities, and discuss the dangers of being involved, as well as the danger of using social media to threaten others with violence,” the statement continues. “Please contact Sparta High School and / or Sparta PD should you have any information.”
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