The mother of a Champlain Valley Union High School student said her son never made a threat to shoot up the school and is not a danger to others, even though police say they received two unrelated reports that he may be a risk.
The mother said she was surprised when Hinesburg, Shelburne and state police showed up at the family home in Shelburne on March 1 with a search warrant approved by a judge.
She said she later learned that a state prosecutor had told police her son had not committed a crime, but that it could be argued a girl, who attends CVU, committed the crime of filing a false public alarm. The girl was one of the two students to alert authorities, police have said.
The Shelburne News is not naming any of the students because they are minors; the newspaper is also not listing the address of the property searched, or other identifying information.
The search found nothing to indicate any immediate means to carry out any threat at CVU, Hinesburg Community Police Chief Frank Koss said.
CVU Principal Adam Bunting also said the police determined the Shelburne teenager did not have intent or means to harm anybody. Bunting made the comment in a letter issued to the CVU school community on Friday, one day after the police raid.
Bunting wrote that he was responding to media coverage:
“As the [Burlington] Free Press article notes, police do not believe the student had the intent or means to do harm; however, per our protocol, CVU’s administration worked closely with law enforcement to ensure students and staff were not in danger in the week prior to vacation.”
He went on to “commend our students and their families for their communication and attention to safety. It was students who took the initiative to report concerns to caring adults.”
Bunting said on Wednesday that school resumed this week and teachers and advisers were available to talk to students with concerns. He said because the email went to the CVU community, a decision was made not to have a schoolwide student assembly or class meetings.
School principals are doing their best to take the necessary steps to defuse anxiety, but also to try to ensure alertness, Bunting added.
The student and his mother spoke briefly with the Shelburne News as police left the home last week, but declined to talk about the reason for the raid.
His mother said he never filed any report and never made a threat. She said a girl had posted a message online that she said was from him.
The only weapon police seized at the home was a pellet pistol.
Hinesburg Police also seized a computer, a laptop and a cellphone, according to an inventory by officers. Also seized was a drawing of a train station and information about the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. His mother said both were homework from CVU, where he has studied art and also had an instructional unit about Sept. 11.
This marks at least the seventh possible school threat in Vermont in recent weeks. Others were reported at high schools in Essex, Colchester, St. Albans, Fairfax, Richford and Fair Haven.
Gov. Phil Scott said he appreciated steps were taken to avoid any potential problems at CVU. “While I’m relieved there was not an imminent threat in this situation, these events demonstrate a need for immediate steps to keep our kids safe,” Scott told the Shelburne News.
“We are currently moving forward with the action steps I proposed last week, focusing on enhancing school safety, addressing root causes of violence by strengthening communities, and keeping guns out of the hands of those who should not have them,” Scott said in an email.
The Shelburne News broke the story about the police raid last Thursday. Koss said the final report will be shared with the CVU administration and the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Koss also praised the two CVU students for coming forward with the tips. He said a girl alerted CVU administrators about a message posted using the social-media app Snapchat on Feb. 15. Bunting notified police in Hinesburg, where the school is located, and in Shelburne, where the student lives, police said.
Koss said Shelburne police contacted the student the following morning before he got on the school bus. He was told to remain at home for the day.
The student returned to school the following week, but last Friday a different student reported to CVU administrators that the same student made a statement about a school shooting, Koss said.
The student suspected of the threats consented to a search of his school locker and backpack, but nothing relevant was found, the chief said. The student remained under supervision for the remainder of the day.
With the school on spring vacation this week, police had more time to dig deeper into the complaint, Koss said.
Shelburne police conducted interviews and provided a detailed history of the student, the chief said.
Based on the total investigation, as well as the nature of the threat, Hinesburg police asked a state judge to grant a search warrant for the student’s residence.
School district reacts
School Superintendent Elaine Pinckney was out of the office and questions were referred to Chief Operations Officer Jeanne Jensen, who never respond to either phone or email messages.
School Board Chairman Dave Connery said last Thursday he was unaware of the police raid. He did say he and the board had been made aware that the CVU administration had dealt with some kind of incident involving a student.
He said the board has scheduled a special meeting for today, likely including a closed-door session to consider a student discipline issue.
Connery said he was pleased the CVU students and administration apparently did all the things that are now expected when people hear or see troubling things. “The students and administration did a good job,” Connery said.
Selectboard discusses tip
The first public mention of the search came in a vague comment made Feb. 27 at a Shelburne Selectboard meeting by then-Chairman Gary von Stange. He said the Selectboard needed to go into closed-door session to discuss an issue that involved “clear and imminent peril to the public safety” but refused to elaborate at the time.
At Town Meeting Monday night, Von Sange spoke of the matter briefly noting how town staff, police and elected officials in Shelburne and Hinesburg cooperated and communicated in handling the situation.