Police search CVU student’s home; no threat found

Photo by Mke Donoghue
Hinesburg Police Sgt. Caleb Casco (left) and Officer Frank Bryan secure evidence seized during a raid Thursday morning at a Shelburne home following possible threats involving Champlain Valley Union High School.

By Mike Donoghue

Police raided the Shelburne home of a 15-year-old Champlain Valley Union High School student today after police say they received two unrelated tips from other students about a possible school shooting.

The search found nothing to indicate any immediate means to carry out any threat at CVU, said Hinesburg Community Police Chief Frank Koss.

Several electronic devices were seized and will be examined for any writings or communications indicating any kind of threat to the high school, the chief said. Hinesburg police were spotted carrying a brown grocery bag sideways as they walked out of the two-story home; they locked it in a police cruiser.

The student and his mother declined comment to the Shelburne News as the police began to depart the scene at about 10:15 a.m.

The Shelburne News is not identifying the student or the property’s address.

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.

Koss said the final report will shared with the CVU administration and the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office.

State police assisted Hinesburg and Shelburne police in the search. A worker for the Department for Children and Families arrived at the house during the search and went into the home. She later conferred with police in the driveway before leaving.

Koss praised two CVU students with coming forward with the tips.

A girl alerted CVU administrators about a Snapchat message on Feb. 15. Principal Adam Bunting notified police in Hinesburg, where the school is located, and 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 remained under a temporary suspension.

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.

The officers arrived at about breakfast time to search the home. Shelburne police, which had three officers there, and Vermont State Police, which had a corporal assisting, both referred questions to Hinesburg police.

School district reacts
School Superintendent Elaine Pinckney was out of the office Thursday and questions were referred to Chief Operations Officer Jeanne Jensen, who did not respond to either phone or email messages.
Attempts to reach Bunting, the school principal, were unsuccessful.

School Board Chairman Dave Connery said he was unaware of the police raid, but said 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 next Thursday with the expected agenda to include a proposed closed-door session to consider a student discipline issue.
Connery said he was pleased that the CVU students and administration apparently did all the things that is now expected when people hear or see troubling things.
“The students and administration did a  good job,” Connery said.

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.

Selectboard discusses tip

The search appears to be connected to a public announcement made by Shelburne Selectboard Chairman Gary von Stange on Tuesday night that the board needed to go into closed-door session to discuss an issue that involved a “clear and imminent peril to the public safety.”

He refused to elaborate. “I’m sorry, but I cannot provide any details,” von Stange told about 35 residents at the meeting, plus an audience watching live at home.

Some residents, including John Saar, got uneasy with the general comment about a threat to the town of Shelburne and asked, “Shouldn’t we know about it?”

“It’s a great question,” Von Stange acknowledged, but said again he could not share details. He promised the town would release information as soon as it was able.

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