State News

Parents concerned over school safety, multiple threats 

By Katy Savage

Parents and community members sounded off at an Otter Valley Unified Union School Board meeting April 11 over safety concerns in the wake of a series of unrelated violent threats made from two students and a teacher in addition to a School Board member’s transphobic remarks. 

The lack of transparency around the events left parents feeling unsafe. Some kept their children home from school. 

“How are we supposed to trust and have trust and faith in faculty with the school’s policies?”parent  Emily Poro said. “Parents are left completely in the dark on a matter that could jeopardize the safety of our children.” 

Concerns escalated when two students in the same class used language deemed threatening at Neshobe School. Superintendent Kristin Hubert sent a note to parents on April 2 saying a student claimed they could “blow something up” using a plastic water bottle with a flint attached to it. Hubert said the threat was deemed not credible.

As rumors swirled on social media, Hubert wrote a second email to parents on April 3, saying there was another more serious threat in which a student threatened to shoot staff and students. The threat was made on March 30, but Brandon Police Chief David Kachajian said both incidents were only reported to him days later from a concerned parent, not from the school itself. 

The police investigated the incident and issued a press release on April 3, resulting in the 12-year-old student being removed from class during the school day and issued a juvenile citation for criminal threatening. The student is scheduled to appear before the Family Division of Rutland County Superior Court in June. 

“We would … like to assure everyone that our investigation determined that the child who had made the threats did not have any access to firearms nor the ability to acquire them from anyone in his family,” Kachajian said in the press release.

Dozens of parents attended the meeting on April 11.

“Since the incident I can’t help but have a pit in my stomach sending my kids to school,” said  Poro.

Just after the threat at Neshobe School, a teacher at Otter Valley Union Middle High School made a threat to kill someone. 

Andrea Quesnel, whose daughter is in seventh grade at Otter Valley, said middle school math teacher Emily Fleming became frustrated with her class on April 7 when she couldn’t control students using their cell phones.

“She decided to tell the class she was going to kill someone then walked out of the room,” Quesnel said. 

Quesnel clarified the threat was not directed at a specific person, but said, “It was completely uncalled for and unprofessional to say the least.”

Quesnel discussed the issue with the principal but said it was dismissed. 

“Dismissing this threat from a staff member has left me with little confidence,” she said. 

Parents repeatedly asked for answers on how their children would be safe, but school administrators would not comment, explaining the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prohibits districts from discussing student disciplinary
actions. Superintendent Hubert also declined to comment on Fleming’s status, citing personnel matters.

In the midst of the threats, School Board member Brent Scarborough made several transphobic remarks on his personal Facebook page. 

In one post, Scarborough reposted an image of a child dressed as a Native American that said, “We live in a world where your kid cannot pretend to be an Indian but a grown man can pretend to be a woman.”

Scarborough’s Facebook has since been switched to private. Some said Scarborough’s remarks made them feel unsafe. 

“It’s my opinion that the statements the position posted by the board member in question here make me feel like my students are unsafe and they have expressed the same to me,” Caitlin Gildrien said at the meeting. “They feel like a clear violation of a code of conduct.”

A group of local nurses attended the meeting on Zoom, calling for Scarborough’s dismissal.

“You should not be able to bully, intimidate or harass groups or individuals that you do not personally know, value or understand, especially those belonging to groups that have been historically marginalized, such as transgender students,” said Amy Matrone, the executive director American Nurses Association of Vermont.

Scarborough was elected in March. His term is up in 2026. Attempts to reach him for comment were not successful. 

The School Board went into executive session on April 11 for more than an hour to discuss a student discipline and a personnel matter. No decision was made at the end of the meeting.  

Hubert said the school would look for ways to improve communication. 

“We can do better and we’ll do better,” she said at the meeting. 

The School Board is scheduled to meet again on May 2.

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