Man Allegedly Entered School To Threaten Student

Southern Regional High School was the scene of an altercation not reported to parents. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  STAFFORD – A Manchester man – the father of two Southern Regional High School students – entered the school last month without authorization and faces criminal prosecution on multiple charges in Ocean County Superior Court.

  According to records obtained from the Stafford Police Department, the 49-year-old Manchester resident with the initials “J.T.” allegedly walked into the school cafeteria during lunchtime on February 15, 2022 and confronted a male student.

  Surveillance footage of the scene shows the dad leaving his flatbed truck and entering the school cafeteria with someone’s assistance. Officials redacted the name of the person who helped the father gain entry into the school.

  The accosted 16-year-old student, whose name has been withheld at the request of his mother, said he felt scared when the 6’2, 230-pound man approached him and started to yell at him.

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  “He was a grown man in my face,” said the boy. “I thought he was going to hit me.”

  According to the high school junior, he was at lunch when two sisters came up to him and tried to get him to go outside.

  As he rejected the girls’ request, the student watched as one of the sisters picked up her cellphone to talk to someone. Soon thereafter, J.T. was in front of the boy and threatened him.

  “During lunch, the girls were sitting directly across from me,” the male student said. “There were a couple of tables between us. I was probably just holding my phone and texting or something. I later heard the girls tell their father I was recording them.”

  By the time the boy spoke with authorities, a school security guard had already escorted the irate father off campus.

  “I wasn’t taking any kind of videos, and told the school they could check my phone,” continued the male student. “I had nothing to hide and that’s when the school called the dad who had already driven away.”

  Patrolman John Reed documented his arrival at the high school approximately 35 minutes after the incident began. By that time, a school security guard had already escorted J.T. outside. The man left the school before Stafford Police came to the scene.

  According to the police record:

  Reed met with Assistant Principal Joseph DiPietro and the student who J.T. confronted during his lunchbreak. While the 16-year-old could not remember everything said to him, the police report summed up his recollection.

  While yelling at him, J.T. told the boy to come outside and stated that he should watch out for two individuals, whose names are redacted in the incident report. J.T. also told the student that he knew where he lived.

  The Stafford patrol officer next spoke with Lydia Todd, a school security guard who witnessed the altercation. She confirmed J.T. made an unauthorized appearance in the cafeteria and used profanity in screaming at the student.

  According to the security officer, the dad accused the student of recording his daughter and believed the two talked about fighting. The boy replied that if J.T. wanted someone to fight, he could get his dad.

  When Todd directed J.T. to leave the premises, he ignored her. Todd summoned Michael Olsen, another school security guard, who ultimately spoke to the Manchester man and removed him from school property.

  “I actually saw the police officer shake the father’s hand as he let him leave,” said the male student.

  Stafford Police Captain James Vaughn clarified that it was the security guard who actually escorted J.T. from the school and not anyone from the local law enforcement agency.

  “Obviously, it was a very traumatic incident, and the boy was upset,” said Vaughn. “Based on the report I have from our responding officers, it was more than likely one of the security officers and not one of our police officers.”

  “There was no wrongdoing by this juvenile the guy was yelling at,” Vaughn confirmed.

  Police reviewed cellphone footage provided by one of the students, which contains no audio. J.T. appeared agitated and in the high school junior’s personal space. As the student backed away, the enraged dad walked away. J.T. then pointed at the boy and makes an unknown statement.

  Reed contacted the father to speak with him about the incident and requested that he come to police headquarters. During the initial conversation, J.T. cursed at the officer and hung up on him.

  A warrant was issued for J.T.’s arrest, and he turned himself in the next evening. Stafford Police arrested and transported the father to the Ocean County Jail within an hour. J.T. faces charges for criminal trespass, harassment, and a local ordinance citing improper behavior.

  The male student’s mother said the school failed in a few regards. In the first place, she feels the district should have better safeguards in place to prevent unauthorized entry into the premises. The mom also said the security guards should not have allowed the father to leave.

  It remains unclear why Stafford Police were not summoned to the scene earlier or why other parents did not receive notification of the intrusion.

  According to the mother her first notification of the incident came from her daughter, a senior at Southern Regional. The daughter called her frantically to tell her what had just transpired – even before the school alerted the mother.

  “My sister walked in after the fact, and I told her before I went back to class,” the male student explained as far as his reason for not reaching out sooner. “I wasn’t about to text my mom and get her all upset. I figured I’d tell her in person.”

  As soon as she heard from her daughter, the mother telephoned the school to find out how someone got into the building to confront her child. She was informed that the principal was attempting to get the details.

  The mother said she made sure Stafford Police had someone at the school. To the best of her knowledge, the father was not in custody, and she worried he would return. The mom left her job in Eatontown to speak with school officials in person.

  “I think Stafford Police were only there because I called the school and told them I was on my way,” said the mother. “The school should have been on lockdown.”

  The boy’s mom became further outraged when she learned J.T. would only be initially charged with trespassing even though he was “basically coming to get her son.”

  According to the mother, local authorities told her J.T. could not be charged with making threats because her son didn’t recall his exact words. The distraught mom contends the boy was in shock, although another student allegedly told school administrators J.T. said he was going to “f” up the high school junior.

A 49-year-old man entered Southern Regional through these doors without authorization and confronted a high school junior. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  Later that day, the student’s sister received a text message asking for her brother’s number. The individual identified himself as J.T.’s nephew and said there was a misunderstanding and he wanted to hear both sides.

  “That’s the same person the father said he was going to have go after my son,” said the mom. “My daughter told him he didn’t need to speak to her brother.”

  When the daughter came home from school the next day, she noticed a car parked near their home. Someone was sitting inside and ducked down as he quickly drove away.

  The mother said her home surveillance camera did not catch the car’s license plate. She made a report with the local police and expressed her concerns as she lives alone with her children.

  “My son doesn’t usually react to things,” the mom shared. “He’s the kid that deters people when they’re fighting. He’s definitely not an instigator or the type to push people’s buttons.”

  Southern Regional responded to a request for documentation with a letter sent from the principal to J.T. The correspondence dated February 23, 2022 references the events of February 15th and contains some redactions.

  “It has been reported to me that you were allowed permission into the building by REDACTED at which time you engaged in a confrontation with a student who was in the lunchroom,” wrote Principal Joseph Medica. “At no time should REDACTED outside person enter the building or be allowed to enter the building from a door other than the main entrance. At no time should REDACTED engage in a confrontation with a student on school grounds.”

  The letter also informed J.T. that Stafford Police would be notified if he was found on the campus again and arrested for trespassing.

  In response for a request regarding any disciplinary actions taken against any of the students, the school district’s legal counsel responded.

  “Only the student themselves, if they have reached majority, or their Parent or Guardian may authorize the release of their student records,” wrote Attorney Laura M. Benson.

  The male student’s mother reported that no disciplinary action was taken against her son. No information is available confirming allegations that the students who let the father into the school were suspended.

  “I received a call from one of the principals telling me to make sure my son didn’t post anything on social media,” said the mom. “I asked him if he thought I was stupid.”

  “I wanted to know what would have happened if the guy had a knife or a gun,” the mother continued. “My son is 16 years old and the whole thing is really scary.”

  According to the mother, the administrator reassured her that he’d been in three schools in the district and that nothing had ever happened.

  “It never happens, until it happens,” the mom says she reminded the school official. “I said the same thing when I met with them in person.”

  Attempts made to interview J.T. for commentary were unsuccessful.