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Cedar Creek Student's Drawings Prompted Investigation, Led to Arrest

Galloway Police also conducted an investigation at Absegami Wednesday morning following the circulation of rumors online, the Greater Egg Harbor Superintendent of Schools said.

The investigation and subsequent arrest of a 16-year-old Cedar Creek High School student from Galloway Township came after a teacher observed “hand drawn pictures of weapons in the student’s notebook,” Greater Egg Harbor Regional School District Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Ciccariello said Wednesday morning.

“It didn’t look good to her,” Ciccariello said. “It was the perfect implementation of what our staff is trained to do. If they see any warning signs, they are to report it to school officials, and that’s what she did.”

Galloway Township Police were called to the school, and an ensuing investigation of the student’s home uncovered electronic parts and chemicals that, when mixed together, could cause an explosion, police said on Tuesday, Dec. 18.

The student is currently being held in Harborfields Juvenile Detention Center. A sweep of the school was conducted on Tuesday by Galloway Police, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office and multiple other police departments and K9 units from the area. Nothing was found, police said.

Cedar Creek remained open on Wednesday. A message was sent out to parents on Wednesday morning, alerting them of the situation. According to Ciccariello, parents were not alerted on Tuesday night because there was no incident at the school, and the investigation continued late into the night.

“I was on the phone until 11 p.m., and by the time parents received phone messages, it would’ve been midnight, 1 in the morning,” Ciccariello said. “I didn’t think that was the best thing, especially since the message was that everything is fine at Cedar Creek High School.”

Details concerning the student and possible disciplinary action are not being released due to the student’s age.

“School officials will make a decision in accordance with out code of conduct, and consult with law enforcement officials  because there are charges involved,” Ciccariello said.

Ciccariello also didn’t release the identity of the teacher who observed the drawings and alerted officials. Attempts to reach Cedar Creek Principal James Reina were unsuccessful Wednesday morning.

Ciccariello did note the administration and staff implemented the district’s protocols perfectly, and were praised by Galloway Police.

“I’m proud as the superintendent that our staff responded the way they did,” Ciccariello said.

Staff at all three schools, including Cedar Creek, Absegami and Oakcrest, are watchful in the days following last Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. On Wednesday morning, Galloway Police were at Absegami conducting another investigation.

“That was a response to rumors on Facebook,” Ciccariello said. “It was brought to the attention of Galloway Police first. One parent or group contacted them and Galloway Police contacted Absegami. They were on the property this morning to conduct an investigation. Because of the Connecticut shooting, there’s a lot of sensitivity.”

"After looking into it, the rumor appears to be just a rumor," Galloway Police Chief Patrick Moran said via email on Wednesday. "However, the school and the PD are working together to ensure that the school continues to be safe and secure."

Ciccariello didn’t say there was any overreaction in this case, but he did say there was no problem at Absegami this morning. He was unable to elaborate due to the ongoing investigation.

Like the Galloway Township School District, the Greater Egg Harbor Regional schools are reviewing their security measures, and administration will be meeting with law enforcement officials for suggestions on how to improve what they are already doing, and what they can begin to do that they aren’t doing at this point.

Some security measures all three schools already employ include:

  • cameras inside and outside each school;
  • one armed school resource officer in each building;
  • a lobby guard that runs the identification of each visitor to each school;
  • proximity card readers for staff members, who must swipe their cards before gaining access to the building; and
  • security officers at each school 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Ciccariello said that all three schools were already counseling students following last Friday’s shooting in Connecticut, and that no additional measures were needed at Cedar Creek.

“At no point was anyone in danger at the school,” Ciccariello said. “We’re just going to continue to do what we’re doing.”

Mary Crawford December 19, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Awesome job by the teacher using her training and probably her own instincts in recognizing something is going wrong with this student. Hopefully he will get the help he clearly needs.
VTPat December 20, 2012 at 01:00 AM
Too many contradictions in this story. Sounds like authorities are going overboard and ruining this kids life in a preemptive strike to cover their own asses in the extremely remote possibility that "electronic parts and chemicals that, when mixed together, could cause an explosion" actually did find their way into some type of explosion. To say they are not overreacting is preposterous and a lie. These "authorities" will ruin a life and trample rights to avoid any possibility that anything drastic will happen on their watch. This is not leadership it is cowardice and abusive.
Shawn G December 20, 2012 at 01:14 AM
If you were the parents of Sandy Hook E.S. kids i doubt you would have the same response. I think it sends a clear message that the teachers are watching everything. Im sure the police didn't enter the home and say oh, gasoline and a lighter next to each other its a bomb. Im sure there is more to it
Charles Michel December 20, 2012 at 07:28 PM
the reports have not had any where near the info need to make a judgement . too many contradictions in the reporting . lets hope they had a lot more to go on before ruining the kids life . i do hope the teacher and school authorities talked with the parents first , before the police . they need to stop this "tell you a little but tell you nothing reporting " what ever happened to "just the facts " what was he charged with ?
Angry Citizen December 23, 2012 at 03:52 AM
I disagree. Hopefully the teacher will be terminated for her failure to understand the student's fourth amendment rights. At the very least both the teacher and administrators need additional training in American civics.
Jarda P December 28, 2012 at 11:20 AM
Won't they send him to Guantanamo for few years of waterboarding holidays? I'm sure he would admit he wanted to overthrow the US government and install an Islamic communist dictatorship under the leadership of Al-Qa'ida. Then he could be executed by disembowelling on the TV broadcast as a warning to future terrorists who would want to attack the most democratic state in the world, where human life and human rights and liberties are cherished over anything, even over the profit of corporations and high bribe incomes of politicians.
Tom Jensen January 13, 2014 at 03:54 PM
Boneheads. http://www.alternet.org/police-send-bomb-squad-teens-house-after-he-doodles-superhero-flaming-glove

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