Student accused of threat

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BENNINGTON — A Mount Anthony Union Middle School student was arrested Tuesday following a threat to shoot a teacher at her school, according to police.

The Bennington Police Department said there was never a threat to public safety, because the student did not have access to firearms.

"I know for a fact that she did not have any access to firearms," police assistant chief Lt. Camillo Grande said. "I do not believe that the school was at risk."

The student was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of criminal threatening and removed from the middle school on Tuesday.

The case, Grande said, has been forwarded to the local state's attorney's office, which will handle its prosecution in Bennington Superior family court. The state Department for Children and Families is also involved. The student's name wasn't released because she is a minor.

The arrest came a day after Bennington police described as "not credible" a story that a student had threatened to shoot a teacher at Mount Anthony Union Middle School. The story apparently started circulating on social media and word of mouth on Friday.

On Tuesday afternoon, Grande acknowledged that investigators were initially "provided false information" by students they interviewed.

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The occurrence of the threat came to light when the mother of another middle school student showed police on Tuesday morning messages her daughter had received from the girl who was later arrested.

"I would shoot [teacher's name]," reads the cellphone message, a screen shot of which the parent sent to the Banner. "I would totally bring a gun to school."

"No. OMG," the other girl is shown replying.

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"Yes. Im going to," the first student says.

The girl's mother, whom the Banner is not naming to protect the identity of her minor daughter, said it was her child who talked about the threat on social media on Friday. From there, it quickly spread until a community member called the attention of Bennington police.

The girl who posted about the threat on social media has been suspended from the middle school, her mother said. Her parents are now trying to get that punishment reversed.

"The point is she said something like we teach her to do," the mom, a Bennington resident, told the Banner on Tuesday. "Unfortunately she posted to social media" instead of talking to her parents, the woman said.

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It's not clear if the arrested student remains enrolled at Mount Anthony Union Middle School.

The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, which encompasses the middle school, declined to answer questions "because it's a police matter," spokeswoman Katie West said Tuesday.

The middle school principal, Tim Payne, had earlier also declined to comment about the incident.

The Bennington Police Department receives reports of similar school threats two to three times a year, which has been exacerbated by the rise of social media, Grande said.

He said he hopes the girl who made the threat of violence can get the help and social services she needs.

Contact Tiffany Tan at ttan@benningtonbanner.com, @tiffgtan on Twitter or 802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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