High school reduces days on campus

A handgun belonging to a student was seized by police from a vehicle parked at Brattleboro Union High School after school staff were notified by the community about its presence on campus.

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BRATTLEBORO — A handgun belonging to a student was seized by police from a vehicle parked at Brattleboro Union High School after school staff were notified by the community about its presence on campus.

“I don’t believe there was ever a general threat for the school or to people in general at the school,” Detective Lt. Jeremy Evans of the Brattleboro Police Department said Tuesday. “And there’s no threat that I’m aware of now.”

Principal Steve Perrin said Thursday that the seized firearm belongs to an 18-year-old student. Perrin and Evans declined to get into more specifics.

“We need to look after everyone and protect the rights of everyone involved,” Evans said.

“We’ve worked really closely with the school in the past ... and continue to coordinate with them.”

Windham County State’s Attorney Tracy Shriver said with the exception of 12 specific crimes, all criminal matters involving people 18 years of age or younger are filed in the family division of court and kept confidential.

Guns are prohibited on school grounds, and part of the police investigation will explore whether the gun was brought to the school property unknowingly, Evans said. He confirmed there is a process for the gun to be returned to its owner, which involves looking at whether a crime was committed.

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The school was alerted to the presence of the firearm by members of the community, including parents of students.

Afterward, the area near the vehicle was secured, and the school then called the Brattleboro Police Department, Perrin said. The person who owned the vehicle was in class at the time.

Perrin said the incident is not connected to another issue he reported to parents last week. School staff are seeing an increase in “physical aggression” from students.

After speaking with colleagues at other schools in the country, Perrin said it is the norm right now, but still unacceptable. Some of the fighting had to do with a longstanding online conflict from the summer that came to a head when students were face to face with each other, he said.

“Some of our students are struggling with how to interact with each other outside of social media, and helping students regain those skills is one of our goals this fall,” Perrin wrote to parents. “We are also working to re-teach students how to be in the same physical space with students they have conflicts with online. As I’ve mentioned previously, the majority of our students have not seen a ‘normal’ year since they were in middle or elementary school.”

In response, students have been participating in the school’s restorative justice program. The school also hired a student engagement coordinator, a student engagement social worker and a flexible pathways coordinator to help come up with alternative learning opportunities for students who struggle with the traditional high school model.