Shortly after noon on Friday, November 2nd, the middle school administration made the decision to place the school in lockdown when they became aware of a safety concern within the building. Staff discovered a bullet in an academic wing and lock-down procedures were put in place. This action allowed the administration to work closely with the Bennington Police department to secure the building and make sure that there was no threat to students or staff. There was an immediate response by the administration and police to confirm there was no intruder in the building.
Students and staff were moved to common areas within the building and told that there had been a safety concern but that all students and staff were safe. Buses began to arrive for dismissal as close as possible to the normal dismissal time. While police and administration had begun a search of lockers in the area where the unspent bullet was found, additional time was needed to search all lockers. The decision was made to release students without allowing them to go to their lockers to provide the time needed to search all lockers and make sure there were no further safety concerns.
However, as a few students had house keys or medication in their lockers, the parents of these students were contacted to pick them up from school in order not to delay the dismissal of all students. By the time parents arrived these students had their lockers checked and the items were retrieved. No safety issues were found in the subsequent search and the building was closed for the evening. The school dance that was scheduled for the evening was cancelled to ensure that the publicity surrounding the afternoon would not attract incidents of similar concern.
This is a good time to remind everyone that weapons of any type, including knives and bullets are not allowed on school grounds or within school buildings. Local SVSU board policy follows federal requirements for disciplinary action for possession of weapons. However, mistakes can happen. A student who has gone hunting with a relative might forget a bullet in their jacket pocket. Please assist us in checking your students pockets and assisting us in telling students that if they forgot and have brought such items to school to go to the office and turn them into an administrator. Security at our schools is taken very seriously. Safety of students, faculty, and staff is our first concern. Also, please remember that all medications are to be given to the nurse, except for those which the students are given permission to hold throughout the day. These would include prior notification of inhalers. All other medications should not be kept in lockers.
We recognize that an incident like this is very disruptive to the learning environment as well as stressful for some of our students and staff. We are proud of all of our students and staff who responded quickly and respectfully to all directions given during the afternoon. Our protocols were followed exactly allowing the administrators and police to ensure that the building was safe. Safety is our number one concern and we took the necessary, recommended steps to keep everyone safe. Our efforts will continue on Monday, when school reopens. Counselors will be available for students should students feel unsure of their environment. The administrative team will be working with staff and police to debrief as part of the response process. Plans continue to establish an SVSU Facebook page and to consider an automatic alert telephone dialing system. Coordination of emergency management plans and drills continue with the police and fire departments for all schools and SVSU offices. Practice assisted on Friday and gives us confidence should such procedures been needed in the future.
Thank you for your continued support of Mount Anthony Union Middle School and we encourage you to contact us directly if you have any further questions.