Hillside High placed on ‘lockdown’ after bogus gun report

Photo by Rebecca Panico
Hillside High School on Liberty Avenue was placed in a lockdown on Wednesday, May 23, due to a threatening phone call.

HILLSIDE, NJ — Hillside High School briefly went into lockdown May 23 after a male student made a call to police falsely claiming he had a gun, authorities said.

Police received the cellphone call around 11 a.m. and traced it to the high school, authorities said.
“A student in the high school was determined to have called, but no gun was found and the school is safe,” local police said in a statement later the same day. “Two students are being questioned by detectives and an investigation is under way.”

The school was placed on lockdown as a “preventative measure” until police found the caller, authorities said.
Parents and guardians could be seen walking into the high school on Liberty Avenue around 12:45 p.m. to take their children home. By that time, police had cleared the scene and students could be seen in what appeared to be gym class at the Phil Rizzuto Field behind the school.

One high school senior told LocalSource at the scene that the lockdown lasted at least 30 minutes.

“You’re neutral,” Christian Branch, 18, said of his reaction to the lockdown. He said he also saw students’ parents lined up outside the school soon after the incident.

It was not immediately clear if any charges had been filed in relation to the incident.
Safety has been top of mind for local school officials, especially in the wake of recent public school shootings in other states. Most recently, a 17-year-old student was charged in connection with killing 10 people at a public high school in Santa Fe, Texas.

The local board of education adopted a budget on May 3, that includes a 2 percent tax increase that funds six armed security officers at each school. Funds were also allocated for the installation of new visitor-management systems at each school.

In Union, meanwhile, authorities investigated a Burnet Middle School rumor alluding to a shooting that appeared on Snapchat on May 24, according to a statement Principal Tommy Harrell sent to parents.

“After a six-hour investigation, no posting has been identified or found,” Harrell said in a phone message to parents. “It was only a rumor. We have identified the student who started this rumor and the appropriate discipline has been given.”

The Union Police Department was present at the middle school the following day as an extra precaution and to alleviate fear on the part of students, faculty and parents, he said.