By Mike Eldred
DEERFIELD VALLEY- Schools in Wilmington and Whitingham are at heightened security today, in reaction to an individual’s unspecified threats to school age children.
Police say the threats were general in nature, and not specifically directed at children in the Deerfield Valley, or at Twin Valley, Whitingham, or Wilmington schools. But as a precautionary measure, Wilmington and Whitingham schools have joined Brattleboro in securing their facilities.
According to an alert message sent by Windham Southwest Supervisory Union Nancy Talbott, “Wilmington Police and Vermont State Police will be conducting extra foot and cruiser patrols at our schools starting today and there will be no outdoor recess. All schools will lock doors and increase surveillance of all entries. This includes Deerfield Valley Elementary School, Whitingham Elementary School / Twin Valley Middle School and Twin Valley High School.”
Wilmington Police Chief Joe Szarejko said they received information, including photos, of an individual who had made general threats and, in cooperation with school districts, stepped up security at the facilities. “This morning we had officers in or near the schools until all the doors were locked,” he said. “Throughout the day officers will check the school more frequently and principals have direct communication with us. Both the officers and principals have photos of the individual, so they know who to look out for.”
Except for the indoor recess, students shouldn’t see any changes in their daily routine. Szarejko said police officers will be at the school or nearby during drop off and pick up times.
It’s unclear how long the heightened security at the schools will last. Szarejko said other police departments are investigating the threats and working to resolve the situation.
Szarejko said there’s no reason for parents to be concerned that their children aren’t safe at Deerfield Valley schools. “From the information we have at this point, there’s no reason to suggest the individual who made the threats will come to Wilmington to do any harm here. We’re being vigilant as a precaution.”
Schools in Brattleboro are also in lockdown, and police patrols at their schools have been increased. In public statement released today, Brattleboro Town Manager Barbara Sondag said “Since the recent tragedy at Newtown we are extremely sensitive to possible threats to our children and will respond in a proactive manner. While we live in a time that requires us to be watchful, the individual in question has violated no laws and our response must therefore be balanced.”