What’s the punitive aftermath of a bomb scare?

An event as impactful as a bomb scare needs to be handled with immense thought and care, especially in terms of the aftermath. When such events occur, a community needs to reflect on what happened, take measures to prevent this from happening again and find ways to help community members heal. In terms of a bomb scare, healing and prevention go hand in hand.

Reflecting on this, Robin Lauzon, Fairbanks House director, says, “It’s important that we build a strong community that cares for and nurtures each other, with the hope that we are able to prevent future incidents from occurring, and that also helps provide all students with at least one adult who they can go to and talk with.” The reaction from students, many of whom are infuriated by these events, can also be a factor in prevention. Students building an atmosphere that says they reject this behavior often hold greater influence than staff members saying the same thing.

Before CVU’s community can work to prevent these events from occurring, the staff must deal with what happened. CVU’s policies regarding discipline focus on four types of offenses: fighting, drugs, alcohol, and safety issues. These offenses have structured policies regarding the first, second and third offenses.

“CSSU has a district-wide weapons policy. Bomb threats fall under this policy and call for an expulsion hearing with our School Board. The outcome of the hearing may vary depending on the individual circumstances of the threat,” Adam Bunting, principal of CVU, said.

CVU faculty members make decisions for punishments if the offense does not fit into any of the four categories. They take into consideration the student’s history, the context of the issue, and past disciplinary actions. CVU’s handbook does mention crimes and subsequent punishments, and, as noted by Bunting, “The weapons policy is outlined in our school handbook.”

In this case, the bomb scare was treated as a violation of the weapons policy because the policy is written as the “creation of an unsafe environment or a threat of,” says Nick Molander, CVU house director. With this policy, the requirement is to bring the issue to the School Board and provide a recommendation of what should be done. It is usually suspension or expulsion.

Even with a procedure laid out, Molander says it is important to understand the context of the issue. Bunting agreed with this by noting, “We are highly interested in what motivates our students to make decisions that might harm the community. Unfortunately, it is easy for community members to blame the aggressor without considering the role that we all may play in creating the circumstance that leads to crime.”

While CVU can change the punishment to fit the context and the person, law enforcement can not. CVU’s Student Handbook states that the school’s policies are “to be applied in conjunction with the school’s overall discipline plan developed pursuant to state law.”

“We work with the police on any crime that occurs on our campus,” Bunting said. While regular law enforcement can deal out punishments ranging from community service to jail time, CVU has to deal with the more subtle community-wide consequences.
Molander wondered, “How did we fail this person? Did we not provide the things we need to? And how can we do that in the future?”

These are important aspects to consider as CVU moves on from its second bomb threat this school year. Elizabeth Bundock, parent of a CVU senior who lives in Shelburne, says, “We appreciate that the school responds, and it’s appropriate considering what’s going on in schools around the country.” The Cummings family in Hinesburg agrees and says that the school is doing all it can, considering the circumstances.

But it is not just up to the faculty to determine what happens in the future. The heart of CVU is its students, and they are the ones who can learn the most from these events.