‘Threat’ shuts down Nutley schools Feb. 16, just 2 days after Florida massacre

NUTLEYStudents in Nutley Public Schools got an extra day tacked onto their winter break (scheduled to begin Monday, Feb. 19) on Friday, Feb. 16 — but for all the wrong reasons.

The district closed all schools after it says it received word that a “threatening video” had been posted to Instagram. However, despite coming to the conclusion that the video was not serious and would not lead to any violence in any Nutley schools, the district decided to close the schools, nonetheless, in light of what had happened just two days earlier at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 students were murdered by a deranged former student.

Superintendent of Schools Julie Glazer issued a statement Friday, Feb. 16, at 5 p.m., explaining the district’s rationale for the closure.

At approximately 8:30 p.m., on Thursday evening (Feb. 15), the district administration became aware of a video circulating on social media,” Glazer said. The video and its surrounding commentary were viewed to present a possible security risk to our students and staff. The Nutley police immediately began their investigation and the individuals involved were identified. They have been cooperating with law enforcement.

Glazer said the Nutley Police Department conducted a security sweep of both Nutley High School and John Walker Middle School, in conjunction with the Essex County Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 Unit.

The Nutley Police Department also conducted security checks of all our public elementary schools in town. These checks were conducted as a precaution to ensure the safety of the schools,” Glazer said.

A state wrestling tournament match, originally slated for NHS, was moved to Belleville High School, according to Glazer.

The superintendent defended the decision to close all schools.

As a district, we have a security plan in place,” she said. We hold regular drills, in each building for various types of emergency situations, in conjunction with the Nutley police and fire personnel. In addition, our comprehensive staff training, including training of all substitute teachers, provides a strong level of preparedness.

Although we cannot share details of these procedures without compromising safety, you can be confident that the security of our students and staff is our top priority. The board and administration continue to look at ways to enhance the district’s safety and security.

Despite word that in Florida, a friend of the accused killer contacted the FBI after seeing something he thought was off, and the FBI not responding to the information it was provided, Glazer encouraged all Nutley residents to speak up if they detect something afoul.

Please remember to be a mindful citizen and if you see something, say something,” Glazer said. We appreciate all those who did just that during these last 24 hours. We also ask that each of you be cautious and responsible with the information you share on social media, and the discussion you have on public sites.  

Our children and their safety are paramount. The release of information on a public forum, whether facts or hearsay, can compromise the safety of our students, staff and the overall community.

Police Chief Thomas Strumolo updated the public with a series of email alerts throughout the day of the schools closing. The most recent came Friday, Feb. 16, at 5 p.m.

While the investigation into the Instagram post is continuing, at this time it appears that the individuals involved in that posting have been identified and are cooperating with law enforcement,” Strumolo wrote. We are still in the process of reviewing all digital media devices and content related to social media. Once again, the facts uncovered in the investigation up to this point indicate that there does not appear to be an imminent threat to any of the schools or the public at this time.

This continues to be an ongoing investigation by the Nutley Police Department and the Essex County Prosecutors Office and updated information will be released as it becomes available. The Instagram video post in question did not appear to contain any direct threats to Nutley schools. However, the content of the video was sufficiently alarming to warrant law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation.”

Meanwhile, The Observer spoke with several residents of Nutley about the incident.

It was the right thing to do,” said James Francis Neubig, a Nutley resident. “I just hope three, six months or a year from now something like this won’t be overlooked. Every threat must be taken seriously and the people involved should be held accountable. No more ‘Oh it was a joke, it was a game we were playing.’ That’s over with.”

“We all saw what happened in Broward County (Fla.) just a couple of days earlier,” Nutley resident Anthony DePinto, 56, said. “If there was a chance of anything happening in Nutley, I’d want to see the kids protected by closing the schools. They did the right thing here. You can never be too cautious.”

Jennifer Cruz, 44 — she wanted to be sure we noted she is not a relative of the Parkland gunman — says she’s fed up with school violence, so the district made the right decision to close schools on Friday, Feb. 16.

“How much more of this do we have to witness?” she said. “Something has got to be done to help these mentally-deranged people — often teenagers — who think the best thing to do is to go to school with guns. With that said, even though they’re saying there wasn’t really a threat here, they did the right thing, just in case. I am glad they shut down all the schools.”

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.