School and police officials ordered a more than two-hour-long lockdown of the John F. Kennedy (JFK) campus after a student allegedly threatened to bring a gun to school on Oct. 17. The reported threat followed a fight on campus between two unidentified students.
The roughly 3,000 students attending the eight schools on the JFK campus stayed in locked classrooms while police officers secured the campus perimeter and searched for the suspect. The lockdown ended after police determined the suspect was not on campus.
No arrests had been made in connection with the case as of Tuesday morning.
Several students said the Oct. 17 fight took place at the Bronx School of Law and Finance.
After the fight, the suspect reportedly ran off the campus. The so-called soft lockdown — which refers to situations when the potential threat is outside of the school — subsequently went into effect.
Many students said after the lockdown was announced over the school’s public address system around 12:50 p.m., they initially thought it was a drill. But as the lockdown persisted through two periods, they realized the threat was real.
“At first I wasn’t scared because I thought it was a drill,” said Charlotte Hakikson, a junior at the Marble Hill High School for International Studies. “But after I found out somebody was threatening us, I got a bit scared because I didn’t really know how to react to that.”
Capt. Paul Rasa, commanding officer of the NYPD’s 50th Precinct, said officers have not confirmed the threat was made.
Student accounts of the incident varied. Some said the suspect threatened the entire campus, while others said the threat only targeted the other student involved in the fight.
“Obviously the school is very safe,” Capt. Rasa said. “Unfortunately a verbal dispute can get a little physical. That’s probably what happened here. But there were no serious injuries, no weapons displayed and overall, the school is safe.”
Capt. Rasa added that about a dozen total officers and school safety personnel examined the perimeter of the JFK campus and looked for the suspect inside the school before ending the lockdown around 3:10 p.m.
John F. Kennedy High School Principal Lisa Luft said the lockdown – coordinated among administrators at all eight school as well as the borough’s safety director and the NYPD – was efficiently executed.
“We were almost surprised at how well it worked and how well everyone worked together to bring it off,” Ms. Luft said.
Schools at the JFK campus sent a short letter to students’ parents explaining the Oct. 17 event, saying, “The safety of your children is our primary concern,” but it did not go into detail about the threat.
John F. Kennedy High School was long known as one of the most violent schools in the city. However, recent years brought both a break-up of the school into eight smaller institutions as well as safety improvements.
Last school year, 67 percent of students at JFK High School said they feel safe at the school in annual surveys. At the Bronx School of Law and Finance, 77 percent of students had the same answer.
The Department of Education’s Building Response Team, which is responsible for emergency preparedness, outlines procedures during a lockdown. In keeping with that protocol, teachers turned off classroom lights and told students to line up against a wall where a person walking down the hallway could not see them, according to students.
Student reactions to the lockdown ranged from cavalier to frightened.
“I heard two things. It was either real, or just a practice. Either way, I got mad,” said Daniel Torres, a freshman at the Bronx School of Law and Finance, where the lockdown kept students past their usual dismissal time of 2:55 p.m.
In contrast, Yeimmy Suntura, a junior at Marble Hill, said she became nervous during the lockdown. But she added she felt the school made her feel as safe as possible. “I felt like there was protection,” she said. “They were really caring. It was really good how the school managed to do the lockdown.”