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Police continue Vt. school threat investigations; Students express anxiety over Texas shooting

Published: May. 26, 2022 at 11:43 AM EDT|Updated: May. 26, 2022 at 1:19 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - As police in Vermont continue to investigate school threats in Montpelier and Hinesburg, students at some schools are walking out of classes to demand changes following Tuesday’s deadly school shooting in Texas.

At a walkout at South Burlington High School and Middle School, students displayed signs saying, “Enough is enough” and “I have the right to feel safe.”

“This has been going on for so long and nobody is doing anything about it. We need stricter gun laws and new gun control,” said Raphaela Sulley, a junior. “I’m not going to lie that I’m not scared. Talking to my parents or even my grandma, who I really look up to -- that could be the last time that I say goodbye or I love you. And it’s just really scary that we live in a world where we can go to school and get killed.”

A walkout planned at Champlain Valley Union High School was canceled following a threat by a student at Burlington High School. Officials say he threatened to shoot up CVU, prompting an investigation.

“In this moment, with this awful, awful tragedy, horrific event that happened in Texas, we’re taking it very seriously,” said Burlington Police Acting Chief Jon Murad.

“Very thankful for the officers last night. They reacted quickly and I know they made contact with the individual and determined that that individual was not a threat for today. But given everything, we’re going to always air on the side of caution,” said CVU Principal Adam Bunting.

That meant a heightened police presence on the CVU campus Thursday morning. “It’s a little nerve-racking. It’s kind of unfair to all of us because nobody should have to worry about that stuff. Seeing the cops at school, it makes me feel safer, but you shouldn’t have to have that. You shouldn’t have to walk into three cop cars at your school,” said Eric Guczek-Nasab, a CVU student.

CVU students are now reportedly planning their walkout for Friday.

MONTPELIER HIGH SCHOOL THREAT INVESTIGATION CONTINUES

Montpelier Police Thursday continued to investigate after they say an 18-year-old Montpelier High School student made threats.

Last Tuesday police were granted an extreme risk protection order, allowing them to seize an AR-style .22 rifle, a 7mm .08 hunting rifle, magazines, and ammunition from the student’s home.

“Ever since I saw that, I guess I’ve just been a little more on edge,” said Diego Harper, an MHS sophomore. “It brings a little worry. I mean, I’m just trying to go to school and learn and do the things I’m supposed to do and I shouldn’t really have to be worrying about the people in the building being threats to me.”

Harper’s dad, Jesse, and other parents say they’re glad to see the red flag law approved by Gov. Scott in 2018 that allowed police to seize the weapons, appears to be working. “Anyone that’s making statements around walking into school or hurting people and has access to guns, that’s a dangerous situation and should be addressed accordingly,” Jesse said. “I think with due diligence, it’s okay to seize and investigate a situation until we know that it’s safe. I think in this instance it worked, but not in all.”

Montpelier Police say the firearms were legally owned and there is no evidence that they were ever brought to school. They also say there was no indication of an “imminent threat to the school, staff, students, or the public,” and there is no information that suggests any racially-based motivation.

No arrests have been made but the student is due in family court next Tuesday to determine whether the extreme risk prevention order should remain in effect.

UPPER VALLEY STUDENTS EXPRESS ANGUISH

Students in the Upper Valley are also expressing their grief and anger over the school shooting in Texas.

Several dozen signs now hang on the fence in front of Rivendell Academy in Orford, New Hampshire. The messages include: “This is not a war zone” and “Am I next?” Principal Keri Gelenian says that his number one job is to prepare students to live in a democracy. He says that allowing them to make their voices heard on such a sensitive topic is a great way to do that.

“Those thoughts and feelings were there and they needed to be expressed. So, I wanted to give them a way to express those thoughts and feelings,” Gelenian said. “I mean, this is real. This is real stuff and it impacts them and it is their lives.”

Rivendell students had to endure tense moments earlier this year when a disgruntled student approached the school with two pellet guns. He was disarmed and taken into custody before anyone was hurt.

Related Stories:

Police seize weapons following Montpelier school threat

Police to be on CVU’s campus following potential threat

Vermont students, school officials react to Texas shooting

Lawmakers from our region respond to Texas school shooting

Is Vermont’s red flag law working?

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