Two students are facing terror charges after they allegedly discussed carrying out a Columbine-like attack at their high school as well as their former elementary school.
The Eastside High School students, a 15-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl, were arrested based on statements made within the last week, prosecutors said. Detectives in the Paterson Police Department's juvenile division were alerted to the threats Tuesday.
The students allegedly talked about their histories of being bullied and harassed at their former school, the New Roberto Clemente School in Paterson, and were fascinated with previous school shootings, according to the Passaic County prosecutor's office.
A spokeswoman for Eastside High School said in a statement that the school launched an investigation after its security staff was flagged on a potential threat involving the students. The threat targeted a former staff member who currently works at New Roberto Clemente, which prompted the middle school's principal, Hector Montes, to conduct an emergency staff meeting Tuesday evening, she said.
The Paterson Police department, school staff and the students' parents were notified.
"We take the security of our students and staff very seriously, and we want to thank our school security officers as well as local law enforcement in their swift handling of this matter," the school spokeswoman said.
Officers searched the students' homes, but found no weapons, police said.
One of the students was charged with three counts of third-degree terroristic threats and two counts of third-degree false public alarm. The other student was charged with two counts of third-degree terroristic threats and two counts of third-degree false public alarm.
Parents at the school were shocked. Some were unaware of the threats.
"It's a parent's worst nightmare. It's just crazy," said a father named David.
"I think it's sad what's going on, how children mimic each other," said Mabel Estrada. "But I trust as parents we know what's going on with our kids."