Police respond to threats at Mt. Abraham Union HS

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 12:01 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 3, 2021 at 6:15 AM EST
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BRISTOL, Vt. (WCAX) - Some Bristol parents say they’re terrified to send their kids to school after the Mt. Abraham Union Middle and High School principal announced Thursday that at least one student threatened to bring weapons to school.

Students and staff arrived at the school Friday morning to find at least four police cruisers parked outside, including two Vermont State Police troopers and one Vergennes Police officer.

“It’s basically two sides that aren’t willing to even try to see each other’s point of view. They’re very set in their ways,” said Isaac Clifford, a Mt. Abraham senior. He says he’s witnessing the deep political for the first time in his four years at the school. “Politics here usually aren’t too bad. You get the people who disagree with each other, but they’ve never gone further than just exchanging words, until this year.”

In an email to Mt. Abe families Thursday night, Principal Shannon Warden says she prohibited students from donning flags and banners after the political expression turned disruptive and disrespectful that day. She says the flags have made many students feel unwelcome, uncomfortable, and unsafe. She also writes that some students that were frustrated with the decision, commented about bringing a weapon to school Friday. Kids who fail to follow the policy could face a variety of consequences.

“I think they’ve been needing to do something for a while,” Clifford said. “Sure, they can stop kids from wearing different political symbols and things like that -- I’m sure that’ll help -- but it’s impossible for them to completely stop all discussion.”

The school’s athletic director also gave coaches the option to cancel practices and at least a couple did.

“The safety of our children is a huge concern for all parents who have students going to any of the schools in the district,” said Katherine Smith, one of the many parents who kept their middle or high schooler home from school Friday. And she says she isn’t sending her son back. “He can attend the school online.”

Other parents say they found one social media post particularly disturbing -- “You take 100 shots and miss one.” They say they’ve been predicting this will happen since the start of the semester.

Mary Dearborn, a Bristol Elementary parent, is among those challenging the administration to present solid solutions. “‘What are you going to do when a school shooting scenario presents itself? What are you going to do when there are threats of weapons being brought to the school,’ I said, because it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” Dearborn said.

School officials late Friday said that after a thorough investigation, they found only one student made comments about bringing a weapon to school and the needs of that child are being addressed. In a statement, Superintendent Patrick Reen said Mt. Abraham will operate on a normal schedule next week with a continued police presence. He said plans are also being developed to bring in additional social, emotional, and mental health supports.

The Mount Abraham Education Association released the following statement:

“The Mount Abraham Education Association (MAEA) fully supports the Principal of Mount Abraham Middle/High School, Shannon Warden, her co- Administrators, and staff in their efforts to ensure a safe, secure, and productive learning environment for all of our students. The incidents this week at Mount Abraham, like the recent incidents at Bristol Elementary School (BES), however, are clear proof that our district must change, improve, and upgrade the support we provide to our neediest students. In both cases, the disruption, violence (or threats of violence) were the results of actions by a very small number of students who could not or would not regulate their behavior. We must seriously consider establishing, or in some cases reestablishing, programs that would allow us to provide separate intensive interventions to these students until they are capable of successfully participating in the wider learning community. Not only would this better support these students, but it would help ensure that the majority of the rest of our students have access to the safe and productive learning environment to which they are entitled.”

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