Administrators at St. John’s Preparatory School in Danvers are working to restore calm among students and staff after a hoax call about an armed man on campus sent students running into the woods and neighboring homes Monday, a “swatting” incident that was further heightened when a police officer accidentally fired his gun.
Classes at the Roman Catholic school were canceled Tuesday for middle and high school students, along with all athletic activities. Administrators plan to reopen Wednesday with a high-profile police presence and trauma counselors on campus for students and staff, school officials said in a statement Tuesday. The campus will be closed to the media.
“As a values-rich and faith-based institution, our school turns to our faith and to prayer in times of trouble and grief as we seek to console and support each other as a community as well as all those impacted by Monday’s events,” school administrators said.
Police in Danvers notified State Police around 1:50 p.m. Monday that they had received reports of an armed person inside the school. During an initial search, a Danvers police officer fired a gun inside a bathroom in a middle school building, Danvers Police Chief James Lovell said.
Lovell said the initial report was for an armed person “threatening to cause harm located in the men’s room” of Brother Benjamin Hall. No one was inside the bathroom and no injuries were reported, he said.
The call was deemed to be a “swatting” incident in which someone calls 911 to draw law enforcement to a specific location by making false claims about violence taking place, according to the FBI.
On Wednesday, comfort dogs will be on campus and members trained in the School Threat Assessment and Response System program, administrators said.
“We are extraordinarily grateful for the presence and efforts of law enforcement and associated agencies throughout this time, and for the performance of faculty, staff and students in the execution of what they have drilled for during their time on campus,” school administrators said. “We are also deeply indebted to the surrounding community and to our neighbors, who graciously welcomed students onto their property into their homes as Monday’s events unfolded.”
Several Massachusetts schools were subjected to similar hoaxes in February and March, and a swatting incident at a Harvard University dormitory in April left a group of students shaken after they were led out of their rooms by police at gunpoint.
Police responded to Boston College High School in Dorchester on Monday to investigate a similar call, but a school official said no students were on campus because of a faculty and staff retreat. The incident is under investigation.
St John’s said it will close its 175-acre campus to the media for the rest of the week.
“While we respect that media members have a job to do and appreciate that important role, our primary concern is the emotional health and the spiritual well-being of our students,” the school said. “The presence of media and cameras will not support this effort.”
Information from earlier Globe stories was used in this report.