Hoax School Shooting Calls Target 21 Vermont Campuses | Education | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Hoax School Shooting Calls Target 21 Vermont Campuses

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Published February 8, 2023 at 2:58 p.m.


Education Secretary Dan French - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Education Secretary Dan French
Law enforcement descended on 21 schools across Vermont on Wednesday morning after a spate of hoax calls reporting shootings on campus. State officials described the unnerving incidents as a widespread "swatting" event.

In all cases, law enforcement determined that the schools were safe and no violence had taken place, Public Safety Commissioner Jennifer Morrison said at a midday press conference. Given that only about 10 percent of schools in the state had received threats, she said, it was likely that the calls would continue.

Swatting is a term that refers to "the false reporting of an ongoing emergency or threat of violence intended to prompt an immediate and/or large response from law enforcement and other first responders," Morrison said.

Such false reports are a crime; state law enforcement, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are investigating the incidents. Other states, including Maine and New Hampshire, have experienced similar swatting events in recent months.
Twenty of the calls, which started at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, came in to local police dispatch centers, while one went to a town clerk's office. The messages were similar in their content and possibly robocalls, Morrison said. At least one specified that two students had been shot, while others said there was a shooting or active shooter in the school.

"If the assumption that these are swatting calls is true, this is terrorism, to evoke fear and chaos in a community," Morrison said.

Even schools not targeted may be taking extra emergency precautions on Wednesday, Education Secretary Dan French said.

Rob Evans, the state's school safety liaison, said the incidents create anxiety within schools and also divert critical emergency resources. Even if reports of school shootings turn out to be false, they "have a variety of unintended mental health consequences" for school staff, students and parents, Evans said. Agency of Education officials said local schools would work to support students in dealing with fear and stress caused by Wednesday's events.

"We need to try to put a stop to this in any way possible," Gov. Phil Scott said. "This shouldn't be normalized. That's why we take every single threat seriously, like it's the real thing, because once it gets normalized, things happen."

"We're all together in this," he added, "and when it comes to our kids and our schools, we'll do whatever we need to do to protect them and keep them safe."

Schools targeted included:

  • Missisquoi Valley Union High School in Swanton
  • Enosburg Falls High School
  • North County Union Junior High School in Derby
  • North Country Union High School in Newport
  • Essex High School
  • Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington
  • Colchester High School
  • Montpelier High School
  • Otter Valley Union High School in Brandon
  • Arlington Memorial High School
  • Brattleboro High School
  • Christ the King School in Rutland
  • Fair Haven Union High School
  • United Christian Academy in Newport
  • Newport City Elementary School
  • Grace Christian School in Bennington
  • St. Albans City Elementary School
  • Milton High School
  • Randolph Union High School
  • Middlebury Union High School and
  • Alburgh Community Education Center