by Mara Brooks
MARSHFIELD/PLAINFIELD – Twinfield Union Principal Mark Mooney said a student who posted threats against the school on social media last Friday will not return to campus “for some time,” but characterized the posts as a “cry for help” and not a serious threat to the school.
“There was no imminent threat,” Mooney said.
The Plainfield school went into “modified lock down” October 16 after a Twinfield student contacted Mooney to report disturbing posts on social media made by another student. Neither student was present on campus at the time, Mooney said. No injuries occurred.
The principal said after reading the student’s posts he immediately contacted Vermont State Police and the student’s family.
“The original posts were concerning because the person was just being negative about themselves,” Mooney said. “But then in the interactions, one of the posts kind of turned to something that could happen here on campus.”
Mooney said he imposed the modified lockdown on campus while police investigated the matter.
“We immediately located where this young man was, which was not even in Marshfield or Plainfield but farther removed from us, and the police eventually did meet him,” Mooney said.
During the modified lockdown, “we secured the building, we weren’t letting anybody in and out, we secured and watched anybody that came up or drove up into the parking lot,” Mooney said.
All students ate lunch in their classrooms and were not allowed in the hallways, Mooney said. Students needing to use the restroom were escorted.
The principal said he opted to “play it safe” until police contacted him to confirm there was no longer any threat to the school.
“Until I got the final verification from the police, we just kept monitoring any cars or any individuals that wanted to come to the building,” he said.
Mooney described the posts as “completely out of character” for the male teen, a secondary level student Mooney said had “never, ever been violent in any way on campus.” The student’s family has been cooperative and “very supportive,” Mooney added.
Mooney said the student is “embarrassed” about the incident and does not want to return to school.
“We’ve all probably been in moments where we’re not thinking straight and we say something that we shouldn’t have said, but he really stepped over a line,” Mooney said. “I don’t think he ever imagined that someone was going to share it right with the principal of the school so quickly.”
Remote learning systems implemented at Twinfield as a result of COVID-19 allow the student to continue his studies off campus for the time being, Mooney said. He added that the school has connected the student’s family with “some other agencies and supports” to assist them.
“We would have to be sure that before an individual came back to campus that they were in a good place, and that they were safe for themselves and others,” Mooney said.
Calling his decision to impose the modified lockdown as “maybe overreacting”, Mooney explained he “took [the student’s posts] seriously” and that he “can’t play around” when it comes to threats made against the school.
“We know we can’t say anymore that ‘it can’t happen here,’” Mooney said. “That’s been proven.”
The student’s posts have since been removed from social media.