False StopIt app report leads to shelter-in-place incident

Aine Pierre, Eastside News Editor

A student reported via STOPit Friday morning that a threat was made by a fellow student against the school. The report, and the threat, were later proven to be false.

“There was never an immediate threat to student safety,” said East Principal Dr. Dennis Perry.

The false report was recorded by the STOPit app between late Thursday night and early Friday morning and was first seen by East administration at least a half hour before the start of classes. Perry indicated that the report said that a student, whom Perry identified under the pseudonym Bob Jones, intended to take violent action within the building at some unspecified point in time. East Assistant Principal Ms. Rebecca Metzger informed Perry of the report upon his entrance to the building, shortly before 7 a.m.

“Anything that goes in [to STOPit]…from the night and the morning, we see when we check that morning,” said Perry.

East administrators immediately took action to verify and contain the threat. Following district protocol, they contacted Anthony Saporito, the district’s director of security, who coordinated a response involving CPOs Kevin Faller and James Hess, as well as members of the Cherry Hill Police Department, according to Perry. Campus and Cherry Hill police found that Jones was not in their first period class and had been marked absent. At this point, Assistant Principal Mr. Lou Papa initiated a shelter-in-place lockdown.

“[Saporito’s] notified immediately…he runs everything through [the Campus Police office] and [in] conjunction [with] the Cherry Hill Police Department,” Perry said. “So he’s notified, the Superintendent of Schools is notified and then we make sure that…the folks that are in the building that need to be aware of it are notified.”

Jones was ultimately found in a different classroom and was escorted out for questioning by both Campus and Cherry Hill police. Perry said that during this questioning, Jones convinced the administration that they had no intention of acting in violence against the school.

According to Perry, through their conversation with Jones, the police and East administrators were able to identify a potential source of the false report. This student later admitted to the administration and police that they had filed the report and done so falsely.

“Technology-wise, we couldn’t [trace] an IP address,” said Perry. “In speaking with Bob Jones, some of the things that Bob Jones said – just about…people that person knows or things that people had said to Bob Jones recently sounded a little bit like a certain student, and [that student] admitted it.” Perry later clarified that the StopIt report’s IP address was not traced by the school and full responsibility for the incident came from the student’s direct confession.

Perry has apologized to both Bob Jones and  their family for the harm done as a result of the false report. While a criminal investigation is pending, East administrators are currently going over the code of student conduct and evaluating potential consequences for the student who authored the report, according to a letter Perry wrote that is posted on the East website.

The Cherry Hill Police Department declined to comment for this article, as an investigation is still ongoing.

This is a breaking story; stay tuned to Eastside Online for developments.