A Day After Active Shooter Scare at Orange High Schools, Parents Demand Answers About Cause of ‘False Alarm’

Orange Prep Academy. Credit: Darren Tobia.

The cause of an active shooter scare that locked down two Orange high schools yesterday remains unclear — and parents are demanding answers.

Jason Belton, principal of Orange High School, reportedly told students today that a faculty member’s medical emergency initiated a “false alarm” that ended with local police officers and a squadron from the county sheriff’s office storming the halls of the school around 5 p.m yesterday.

“A teacher just had a panic attack and fell — that’s what they said,” said a 10th-grader at Orange High School, who was sitting in her mother’s car shortly after the school’s dismissal today.

Gerald Fitzhugh, the superintendent of city’s schools, issued a statement today about the incident, but it doesn’t clarify the root cause of why law enforcement made a sweep of both Orange High School and Orange Preparatory Academy armed with assault rifles yesterday. However, the letter did dispel one news report that claimed witnesses had heard gunfire.

“Considering recent school shootings and threats across the nation, the district and local authorities take each incident as priority,” Fitzhugh said. “Recent news reports shared this evening stated that there was gunfire in the high school and that was certainly not the case. Further, there were no injuries to staff and students during the incident.”

The 10th-grader who spoke to the Four Oranges said she was scared to come to school today but made a plan with her mother to call her if anything happened. “My friend texted me yesterday and said people are shooting up the school and she started sending me videos of people in the locker room with their hands up,” the student said.

A screen shot of a student’s social media post. Credit: News 12 New Jersey.

Parents — unnerved by a call last night from the school about the scare, which came only a week after school shooter Audrey Hale murdered six people at a Nashville elementary school — began lining up outside both high schools around 2 p.m. today to ensure their child’s safety and hoping to pry information about what prompted such a traumatic incident.

“Yesterday was totally vague and we didn’t get a call from them during the day,” the parent of a 9th-grader said. “When she comes out she’ll hopefully tell me what she heard. There should have been more information given out — because that’s scary.”

A student’s video posted to social media last night was obtained by News 12 New Jersey showing police officers, including Chief Vincent Vitello, armed and wearing bullet-proof vests, patrolling a hallway lined with students with their hands held above their heads. “Part the sea,” one officer is heard saying to students, asking them to clear a path. “Side to side.”

Read the superintendent’s statement about the scare here.


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