Cranford teen pleads guilty to creating false public alarm at high school

A local teenager has admitted to posting a message on social media alluding to a threat against Cranford High School students last fall, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Wednesday.

The 15-year-old juvenile defendant, who is not being identified due to his age, pleaded guilty to a single charge of third-degree creating a false public alarm.

The date was October 30, 2014 when the Cranford Police Department was notified of a suspicious post made on the social media app Yik Yak, according to Union County Prosecutor’s Office Juvenile Unit Supervisor Susan Gleason.

Yik Yak allows subscribers to anonymously post messages that are accessible only by other Internet or mobile phone users within a small geographic radius of where the messages were originally sent. In this case, the message alluded to a “big surprise” at Cranford High School the next day, with students advised to “watch your backs” shortly before 11:30 a.m., Gleason said. 

The Union County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Units were dispatched and a complete sweep of high school was conducted, but no explosives, firearms, or otherwise dangerous substances or objects were located. A subsequent joint investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office Juvenile Unit and the Cranford Police Department identified the juvenile defendant as a suspect, and he was located at his home.

Under the terms of a plea agreement, the defendant, who was 14 at the time of the incident, was placed on probation for 12 months and now must complete 40 hours of community service with the Elizabeth Police Department. The student also must pay restitution in the amount of $2,000 and attend school with no unexcused absences, tardiness, or suspensions for the duration of the current school year.