Strategizing to keep Vermont students safe at school

Published: Nov. 13, 2018 at 4:19 PM EST
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School shootings are a parent's worst nightmare. Vermont avoided tragedy earlier this year when an alleged school shooting plot was stopped at Fair Haven Union High School. It prompted Gov. Phil Scott to sign new gun regulations, going against some of his Republican base.

Now, state leaders in law enforcement and in school districts are discussing new and emerging methods to keep your kids safe at school. Our Dom Amato found out how the community can play an important role in keeping schools safe.

"It terrifies me that someone could go into my daughters' school and do harm, extreme harm. It's terrifying," Jenni Lee Mason said.

Mason has two children in Barre schools. She says her kids are worried.

"It's not something I thought about when I was a kid. It's something that my older daughter, she says to me all the time, 'Mom, I think about it every night,'" Mason said.

Which is why about 300 law enforcement, first responders and school administrators met in South Burlington Tuesday to discuss keeping students safe in Vermont schools.

"This really is something that is on the forefront of everybody's minds," Vt. Public Safety Commissioner Tom Anderson said.

Vermont awarded $4 million to multiple schools for infrastructure improvements in July. One million of that went to developing training, planning and emergency exercises, which Anderson says is just as important as security improvements.

"That teachers and school officials know what to do and how to do it and are training to do these things, so this doesn't happen in Vermont," Anderson said.

Addison/Rutland Supervisory Union Superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell says Fair Haven Union High School has made significant security upgrades since February. That's when former student Jack Sawyer allegedly planned to shoot up the school. Olsen-Farrell says their resource officer was a deterrent to Sawyer's plan.

"I think school resource officers, in general, are a vital resource for schools," Olsen-Farrell said.

Vermont school safety leaders say there are just over 30 school resource officers in the entire state. With salaries of $90,000-$140,000, some schools just can't afford one.

Either way, experts want you to say something if you see something.

"Every single Vermonter has a role in this," Anderson said. "Not just the schools, not just law enforcement, not just PTAs, not just supervisory unions, but every single Vermonter has a role to play in this."

Mason agrees.

"Go talk to somebody you trust," she said. "Just be like, 'Hey, I'm kind of concerned about this person. They're acting a lot different."