MAHWAH, N.J. -- Amid unprecedented security prompted by a purported threat by a middle schooler, a frightened Mahwah youngster brought an airsoft gun to his elementary school in his backpack Friday morning.
"He had no intention of causing harm," Schools Supt. C. Lauren Schoen said Sunday night.
It wasn't until Saturday that a Joyce Kilmer School parent told school officials that the boy showed fellow 4th- and 5th-grade students the weapon -- which shoots plastic pellets -- during the morning bus ride the day before, she said.
Mahwah police were out in force at township schools on Friday, following a rumored threat that a 13-year-old boy had made last fall of intending to "shoot" up the Ramapo Ridge middle school that day. The report proved unfounded, authorities said.
The younger Joyce Kilmer school boy brought the weapon with him Friday morning "because he was scared by the situation at Ramapo Ridge," Schoen wrote in a Sunday night email to parents co-signed by Police Chief James N. Batelli.
Airsoft guns are replicas weapons designed to shoot "non-metallic spherical projectiles" made of, but not limited to, "plastic or biodegradable resin materials," according to Wikipedia.
Used in airsoft sports, that are non-lethal but can cause welts and other serious injuries, especially around the eyes.
The guns look genuine: Some manufacturers reportedly use molds of the originals.
Unless closely examined, they can look like a real gun.
"After receiving the information from the parent on Saturday, the matter was immediately reported to the Mahwah Police Department and was expeditiously and thoroughly investigated," Schoen wrote.
"The Joyce Kilmer School administration together with the police worked to investigate the matter, including interviewing the student who brought the Airsoft gun as well as the students who witnessed it on the bus on Friday," she added. "The Airsoft gun is now in the police department’s possession."
With the investigation completed, Schoen wrote, she and Batelli wanted to make parents aware of certain information "in order to alleviate fears, assumptions and rumor."
Schoen also announced the creation of a district hotline to report any and all tips, information and suspicions: firstname.lastname@example.org .
"The Joyce Kilmer student did, in fact, bring the Airsoft gun on the bus, in his backpack, and did show it to some friends," Schoen noted.
"The student did say that the Airsoft gun was brought to school on Friday because he was scared by the situation at Ramapo Ridge," she added. "He had no intention of causing harm.
"The building administration received the information on Saturday afternoon and immediately initiated district procedures which include collaborative investigations with the police," she said.
"We are proud of the student who came forward and truly appreciate the parent who alerted the proper authorities," the superintendent wrote. "Please talk with your child about the importance of 'See Something, Say Something.' Working together, we can reassure the upstander that alerting an adult is the right thing to do and speaking truthfully will not get them into any trouble," she added.
"Our community and school safety relies on all members working together and remaining vigilant to sharing information with proper authorities," the superintendent wrote.
"Given the tragedy in Parkland, combined with the media coverage in our own town, it’s easy to understand the stress and anxiety being felt by so many. It is important to talk to your children honestly about these recent events, recognizing that how much 'honesty' is appropriate is different for each child.
"Please be mindful of what information your child is consuming, and help them process that information accordingly," Schoen urged. "Rumors at school, social media posts, or overhearing conversations between adults can be overwhelming, particularly for younger children.
"If you feel that your child is in need of additional support, please let your child’s teacher or guidance counselor know so that we can arrange for appropriate assistance.
"While our administration and Board of Education work through the process of reviewing all of our security procedures, in partnership with the Mahwah Police Department, we are asking for your assistance," the superintendent wrote. "Please take the time to understand how your children are feeling.
"Reassure them that they are safe at school, and to let their teachers, their building administrators, or any adult in school know if they need help."
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