By Guy Page
Both school districts of the two Vermont high schools subjected to recent alleged school shooter threats have opted within the last two years to not have a school resource officer on the school premises.
In the aftermath of recent mass shootings in Buffalo, NY and Uvalde, Texas perpetrated by disturbed teenagers, Vermont police and school officials have investigated reports of potential shootings at the Derby Junior High School, Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg, and Montpelier High School.
No arrests have been made. In one incident, firearms were seized at the home of an 18-year-old.
There are no school resource officers — aka cops regularly working inside the school — in Montpelier schools, Police Chief Brian Peete confirmed to Vermont Daily Chronicle this afternoon. The school board opted in August, 2020 to keep the school resource officer out of the school, due to concerns that students of color might feel traumatized by the presence of a police officer, according to an August 25 2020 Times-Argus news report (“No Room for Resource Officer”). A later news report said the SRO was welcome to come if called, but otherwise would not be welcome on campus.
Champlain Valley Union High School hasn’t had a school resource officer since its supervisory school board’s February 2021 decision to not have a resource officer. Instead, a staff member is tasked with conducting threat assessments and liasing with local police.
The Burlington School District also restricted SRO access to school property. A Senate bill that would have prohibited school resource officers was introduced in 2021 but did not progress.
School resource officers became popular after well-publicized school shootings, but came under criticism along with other police after the killing of George Floyd in May, 2020. The planned school shooting at Fair Haven in 2018 was foiled with the help of the school resource officer.
Montpelier – a week ago Tuesday, on May 17, Montpelier Police acted on information received from Montpelier High School staff regarding an alleged threat to the high school, Chief Peete said in a statement issued today.
The incident involved an 18-year-old male. MPD applied for, and was granted, an Extreme Risk Protection Order. Officers made contact with the subject and seized a 7mm .08 Hunting Rifle, an AR-type .22 rifle, magazines and ammunition from his home. The firearms are legally owned.
MPD understands the Montpelier Roxbury Public School (MRPS) District has taken steps regarding the subject’s access to the High School and MRPS buildings.
No weapon incidents occurred at the hiigh school or any Montpelier schools, nor does MPD have any evidence that the confiscated weapons were ever on school grounds, Peete said.
MPD has no indication or information that there was or is an imminent threat to the school, staff, students, or the public relating to this incident, the chief said.
No arrests have been made as the investigation is ongoing. MPD has no information that suggests any racially-based motivation.
Montpelier-Roxbury superintendent Libby Bonesteel told school district parents in a May 25 letter that they were not immediately informed of the incident due to a desire to protect the informant.
“An incredibly brave student and staff members came forward to the administration regarding threats they heard made by a student against the school,” Bonesteel said. “The MPD was contacted and took swift action. After a protective order was issued, the MPD confiscated two weapons and ammunition from the home. The student in question will not return to MHS this school year and is cooperating with officials. We did not announce this event publicly in the hopes that we could protect the people who came forward with information.”
MPD has been conducting directed patrols and is paying special attention at the High School (as well as at other city schools). MPD is working closely with the Washington County States Attorney’s office, and continues to communicate with federal, state, and regional law enforcement.
Hinesburg – May 25, 2022, at 9:30 pm, the Hinesburg Police Department received information on a threat to Champlain Valley Union High School, Police Chief Anthony Cambridge reported on a social media post.
A father of a CVU student contacted the school to advise that a Burlington High School student made a threat against his daughter, her friends, and the school. The message stated that the Burlington student threatened to “shoot up the school,” and further advised that he possesses a handgun.
As a potentially credible threat, Hinesburg Police in conjunction with Vermont State Police, Burlington PD, and CVU started an investigation into the matter. We were informed by Burlington PD that officers had gone to the home of the Burlington student and were advised by his parents that he does not own a handgun.
The matter is still under investigation, and police will be at school today. “If you see something or hear something about a possible threat, say something, even if you don’t feel it may be credible,” Cambridge said. Call 802-482-3397 or after hours at 802-985-8051.
Derby – state police were contacted Friday, May 20 by staff at Derby Junior High School about an alleged threat made to the school by a student. State police initiated a response coordinating with school officials and community resources.
State police said Saturday it does not appear to be a credible threat. However, investigation is ongoing and parents and community members were instructed to expect to see an increased police presence at the school this week.
Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.