Student arrested in gun threat hoax at Forest Hills High School: NYPD

Forest Hills High School went into a “soft lockdown” following a threat of gun violence.
Photo by Ellis Kaplan
By Gina Martinez

Parents and students were shaken up after Forest Hills High School was put into a soft lockdown last week following a hoax gun threat.

The school — located at 67-01 110th St. — went into the lockdown March 15 after a note was found on a desk about a student having a gun and wanting to replicate the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, police said.

Officers arrested a 16-year-old boy who attends Forest Hills High shortly after the lockdown, charging him with making terrorist threats and criminal mischief, police said. He was expected to be arraigned this Thursday, according to the Queens district attorney’s office.

Principal Ben Sherman held a meeting with parents later that afternoon to answer questions about the incident. He said teachers found a note on March 14 that suggested a student was thinking about shooting up the school, which the school investigated internally. But when a more specific note was found the following day in the same handwriting and implied that there was a gun being hidden in the school, officials called the police, who initiated lockdown procedures.

According to first-hand accounts, students were trapped in their rooms with no initial explanation. Angel Suarez from Rego Park commented on timesledger.com, saying students were confused and a few kids were crying.

“Yesterday was a really bad day at FH,” he wrote last Friday. “We had to stay in our room for 2 1/2 hours with no answers to what is going on. We heard there were cops, cars and ambulance in front. No one ever came around and we had to go to bathroom and finally our teacher just had to open the bathroom but said we could get into trouble.”

Another visitor to the website, Sam Green from Elmont, said: “Principal Sherman remained in his office for the entire crisis. Everyone knows that now, except the parents. No communication was made to teachers for two hours.”

The TimesLedger could not reach the principal for comment before presstime because the school was closed during Tuesday’s snowstorm.

Police received a call about the threat at 11 a.m. March 15, forcing the school into the soft lockdown, and by 12:57 p.m., the 112th Precinct tweeted that the situation was under control.

“Soft lockdown at Forest Hills High School. Everything is alright, it’s just precautionary, kids and teachers all OK.”

According to police, no one was injured and the lockdown was over as of 1:30 p.m.

“Lockdown at Forest Hills High School has been terminated. Students and faculty are all OK. Individual responsible for today’s hoax is in custody,” the 112th Precinct tweeted at 1:58 p.m.

City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) praised the 112th Precinct for its quick action and said it was especially impressive considering the timing of the threat, which occurred just one day after thousands of students citywide held walkouts in protest of gun-violence.

“To be perfectly clear, whenever threats are made against our children, the utmost caution must be used,” she said. “Threats of gun violence against students can never be taken lightly. That’s why I want to take this opportunity to praise the work of the 112th Police Precinct and its commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Robert Ramos for their quick action in collaborating with school officials, assessing the situation, ensuring everyone remained calm, and quickly containing a situation that could have escalated out of control.”

DOE spokeswoman Barbot Miranda said the high school followed normal procedure and returned to order as soon as officers confirmed students were safe.

“The safety of students and staff is our top priority, and this serious threat was immediately reported to the NYPD who conducted a thorough investigation and determined it to be unfounded,” she said. “The temporary soft lockdown was lifted and normal dismissal procedures were followed.”

According to the city Department of Education, a soft lockdown implies that there is no identified imminent danger to the sweep teams.

The DOE website said the school puts out an announcement on the PA system at the start of soft lockdowns.

“Attention: We are now in soft lockdown. Take proper action” is repeated twice over the PA system.

Students are trained to move out of sight and maintain silence and teachers are trained to check the hallway outside of their classrooms for students, lock classroom doors, and turn the lights off.

Students and teachers are instructed to move out of sight, maintain silence, and wait for first responders to open door or for the “All Clear” message to be announced with specific instructions. Finally, teachers take attendance and account for missing students by contacting main office.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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