SADDLE BROOK, N.J. – A New Jersey father says that a fifth grade student at Franklin Elementary School threatened to bring in a gun and shoot his 10-year-old disabled son. After a school investigation confirmed the threat by conducting multiple student interviews, George Luis claims school administrators failed to act.
“We were contacted by the school and we were also told by our son that he was threatened by another student, that he was gonna pull a gun out and shoot him,” said Luis. “There was even a mention of a machine gun.”
Student interviews were recorded in a harassment, intimidation and bullying report filled out by school administrators. In the report, the student accused of making the threat admits “I would shoot him with a gun.”
Luis says his 10-year-old son Carlos became the target of bullying and the threat because he is legally deaf and he wears implants that enable him to hear. Luis claims the school did not intervene.
“I just feel like the school district lied, lied to us, neglected to take care of safety for all the kids the teachers,” he said.
Luis was so concerned that he kept his son home for days, and he was forced to miss work. He says that school officials only agreed to move the alleged bully into a different class after he and his wife made repeated complaints about a lax response to the threat. He remains disappointed that the district allegedly never reported the threat to police.
“They didn’t allow them to properly go these peoples' house and make sure they didn’t own a gun,” he said.
New Jersey has among the toughest anti-bullying laws in the country. Signed by Governor Christie in 2011, the state’s "Bullying Bill of Rights" requires administrators to investigate all reported incidents of bullying. Students found to be bullying can face suspension or expulsion. School districts are also graded based on their compliance under the law. The Franklin School scored a 62 out of 78 on their anti-bullying assessment for the 2013-2014 school year.
A Saddle Brook School's board member, Michael Accomando, expressed his outrage over the incident on Facebook, stating: “As a member of the BOE I feel embarrassed and ashamed that administration has done nothing about the situation or hasn’t informed any members of the BOE about this.”
Dr. Richard Katz, the district superintendent, would not answer questions on how the school handled the alleged gun threat. He cited student and faculty privacy concerns and the sensitive nature of the issue. He did state in an e-mail that the district takes bullying incidents “very seriously and ensures that the processes outlined in its policies are followed in accordance with law.”
At a board meeting roughly two weeks after the incident, which was reported on October 5th, Dr. Katz stated: “It’s not accurate to say that nothing was done.”
But he also conceded that in this case, the matter may have been handled improperly.
“I make a judgment call," Katz said. "It was the wrong call in this case and okay, I can accept responsibility for that.”