By Michael Bielawski
A petition has emerged with over 160 signatures on it from the Plainfield/Marshfield communities to have an armed officer be on the campus of the Twinfield Union School that they send their children to. The school received a school shooting threat by email last week.
The petition was started by Caitlin Bingham, a mother who attended Tuesday evening’s school board meeting. She was concerned about the vulnerability of the students after speaking with school leadership on the current protocols – or lack thereof - for an event such as a school shooting.
Twinfield Schoolboard Meeting
She explained who signed the petition to the board, there are currently 164 signers.
“I think that most were parents of children at the school, there were a couple of students that had signed and I did leave it open to taxpayers of Marshfield and Plainfield,” she said.
Charles Winn, a state police officer, was at the school board meeting and he spoke with VDC afterward.
“I think it’s a very safe school, I think they are going out of their way to work with us on making sure that students feel safe coming to school, we’re doing what we can to provide resources to the school,” he said.
VDC asked him what he thinks about new proposals to have a school resource officer.
“I think it’s a great idea to have a school resource officer,” he said. He further noted that due to current staffing challenges an officer stepping in from the State Police is unlikely. That means the school would have to hire its own officer.
VDC asked about the time it takes for an officer to arrive on the scene in the case of a real threat on campus. He said it depends on where everyone is.
“But it just depends on where the troopers were if something were to happen,” he said. He noted that it’s about a 15-minute ride from his local office to the school, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s 15 minutes away.
“We cover a very wide area so it could take longer or it could take shorter,” he said.
The petition language makes clear what it intends to change. It states, “Our school received a very disturbing threat last week via email, the source of the threat is still unidentified. As a parent of the school, I find it very irresponsible that the school is currently unarmed.”
It continues, “There is no immediate protection to our children if a scenario such as the one threatened were to occur. After a meeting with Rachel Hartman, one of the principals, she has informed me that even our local law enforcement officers have stated that if a shooting were to take place at our school their response time would take 30 minutes or more.”
She suggests this is not an acceptable scenario.
“The hard reality is, if a person is to enter our school building with a weapon and an intent to kill, the only thing to save our children is another gun and we currently don’t have that protection.”
She said that the school board should weigh other options.
“Either a trained and armed teacher within the building or a hired resource officer. Please sign below if you think our children deserve that protection,” it concludes.
The meeting on Tuesday saw at least 20 residents in attendance, seemingly all of them were there to voice concerns about last week’s school threat. Alex Hickory from Marshfield spoke about what happens after Oct. 18, which is apparently a date mentioned for a potential shooting event from the email last week.
“My biggest question is what are going to put in place after that date? It’s not like the 18th is going to get here and then ‘OK it’s done, we’re free and clear’. … Are we going to entertain the idea of actually having some armed security given the fact that we are geographically nowhere close to actual law enforcement?”
Dan Caddy of Plainfield was another concerned parent to speak. He shared concerns that the current “ALICE” drills which stands for “Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate” which have students train to run, hide, or fight a potential armed attacker are not sufficient.
For example, he said that having the children hidden in locked classrooms would be an ineffective measure.
“Yeah you can lock doors, two shots and that door is now unlocked,” he said.
He suggested there is special training put on by the Department of Defense and FEMA that is free and deals with life-saving measures beyond traditional CPR training.
There are seven more comments posted on the petition itself. Amanda Taylor wrote “There is absolutely no reason to not have armed professionals on every school campus. The governor is protected by armed guards, why not our children?”
Aliza Niquette wrote, “I’m scared to go to school every day.” Susanna Paye wrote, “I believe our children and community members should be protected, and feel safe.”
Melissa Austin wrote “Some schools have a police officer every day for safety. I feel all schools need some sort of guard for safety, especially now with school shootings becoming more common.”
The school board did not have a formal discussion on whether they would go forward with an armed officer on campus or not, but the chair did say that the subject would be on future agendas.
The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle