NJ school district cracks down on class ‘clowns’ with costume ban
MONTCLAIR — This North Jersey township's school district has become the first to ban clown costumes at a school for Halloween.
Interim superintendent Ron Bolandi, in a letter to parents, says any child who "shows up with a clown related costume, they will be asked to change or sent home."
Bolardo also asked parents to warn their children about the dangers of copycatting and pranks.
"Any threatening email or post on social media will be investigated by the police, and the person responsible risks legal consequences, regardless if the intent was harmless, a hoax, or copycat in nature," Bolardo wrote.
Meanwhile, in Union County, Roselle Park officials requested that no one wear a clown costume in the wake of the "creepy clown" public panic that has included unfounded online threats and mostly uncorroborated sightings and hoaxes. The Borough Council stressed on Thursday night it was only a suggestion.
Several teens around the state have been charged. In Cinnaminson, a teen who ran across a soccer field wearing a clown mask, scaring a bus full of students, was arrested.
"I would like to assure you the Cinnaminson Police Department at my direction has taken a Zero Tolerance towards any acts involving 'creepy clown sightings," Director of Public Safety Michael P. King said in a statement.
Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield said "anyone who makes a false claim will be held responsible. While some may view this as a prank, it is a serious offense that wastes the time and valuable resources of our police departments. When you spread information that is known to be false and causes public alarm, it is a crime.”
He also compared clown threats with cyberbullying.
“I ask of all our students to remember that schools are a place where everyone should feel safe and bullying at school or from home over your computer will not be tolerated.”
For all the talk of charges, is it criminal to dress like a clown? Freehold attorney Richard Lomurro said it depends on the conduct of the clown.
"A clown itself, not a problem. A clown making threats, a clown following someone and harassing them, that's a problem and that's a charge that could stick."
Using the example of a pickup truck with two people in clown masks chasing a Hawthorne woman for 20 miles, Lomurro said the charges of harassment and disorderly could be upheld.
"Wearing a clown outfit walking around, you have to look at whether they had an intention to harass someone or just have some fun.," he said.
Lomurro said the increasing number of "creepy clown" cases means someone could wind up facing serious charges.
The teens being charged in the online clown cases will have their cases heard in Family Court.
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