A scary incident at a North Bellmore elementary school last week turned into a joyous event, celebrating the bravery, compliancy and support of students, teachers and staff — while honoring and thanking the Nassau County Police Department for doing its part to keep everyone safe.
Police officials said they received a 911 call on Jan. 16 at 11:25 a.m. for a male with a gun and possible shots fired at Newbridge Road Elementary School. The department responded swiftly, and the school entered a lockdown, while nearby schools put a lockout in place.
Authorities conducted a comprehensive search of the Newbridge Road school building, utilizing numerous police department resources. By early afternoon, the call was deemed a “swatting incident,” and the threat of a shooter or weapon on school grounds was unfounded. According to the FBI, swatting is a hoax call, or a fake threat, made to an emergency service, with most indicating the immediate danger to human life.
The number of swatting calls has increased drastically in the last few months. Last week, emergency services were called to the White House after a report of a fire — another call that was deemed unfounded. There is no clear reason why there’s been more swatting incidents, but as of last year, the FBI has developed methods and a database to track them.
But in North Bellmore, what was almost an apparent tragedy turned into a heartwarming morning of celebrating the resiliency of Newbridge Road. Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder brought an “NCPD Police Interactive Day” assembly to the school last Friday — much to the delight of hundreds of children and staff who packed into the gymnasium.
“Commissioner Ryder and the police department asked if we would be open to having an assembly so that we would end the week on a positive note,” Marie Testa, North Bellmore School District superintendent, told the Herald. “There was something traumatic, yet it worked out. We’re coming together to celebrate our partnership and safety and security.”
Joining Ryder were officers from the department’s Bureau of Special Operations, Problem-Oriented Policing and community affairs, as well as the Emergency Services Unit, the mounted unit, the K-9 unit and Homeland Security Unit. Walking down a makeshift “runway” between crowds of students, officers doled out high-fives and were handed dozens of cards of gratitude.
A K-9 officer walked down the center of the gymnasium with a dog named “Moose,” who listened to commands and performed a few tricks, and two horses from the mounted unit also popped their heads inside to greet students.
“Newbridge Road is a home away from home for many of us,” Principal Amanda Licci said. “Our students, our staff — we enter these doors each day and just spend hours of our day here together. In North Bellmore, we believe that a safe and healthy environment optimizes learning. It’s essential that we feel safe and secure here.
“And thanks to the leadership of the North Bellmore School District — along with the partnership of the Nassau County Police Department, we do,” she added. “On Tuesday, the members of the police department did more than protect and serve.”
Licci presented the department with a Newbridge HEART Award. HEART stands for “Honor,” “Empathy,” “Acceptance,” “Respect” and “Teamwork.” Winning this award in school is a point of pride for many students — and Ryder graciously accepted it, announcing that he’d be hanging it on the wall of his office.
Ryder said he was impressed by the students’ response during the incident, and proud of how they acted. He added that he was also tremendously proud of his officers that responded, who without hesitation, showed up to ensure the safety of everyone in the school.
“We rely so much on you guys doing your part,” Commissioner Ryder told the students, “and you guys were awesome — awesome. My cops came back and said, ‘This school did everything we do to practice with.’ I don’t ever want to play the game for real, but I do want to keep practicing.
“We decided to come back here today to say thank you — thank you to all of you kids for doing your part,” Ryder added.