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Harwood Union students return to law officer at the door

Harwood Union students returned to school this week on Wednesday, January 2, to find a sheriff on site.

The law enforcement officer was there as a precautionary measure as a restraining order had been issued to keep someone away from the school, according to co-principal Lisa Atwood.

Atwood said that because school administrators did not know the whereabouts of the person who was issued the order, they took measures to provide the extra layer of protection as a precaution.

Following the school shooting in Connecticut last month, Vermont Commissioner of Education Armando Vilaseca urged schools across the state to review and revise, as necessary, all safety procedures.

“It’s not uncommon for a school throughout the year to have to issue a restraining order to a parent, community member, faculty member or student. We’ve always just left it there and figured they’d abide by it. But nowadays, given recent events, we have to revisit that policy. Coming back from vacation, we’ve been unable to determine the whereabouts of the subject of the restraining order. Once we locate that person, we’ll see if law enforcement measures are needed after today. We don’t think there is any immediate threat to the school or anyone at the school,” Harwood Union co-principal Lisa Atwood said.

“You’re always challenged to explain what is going on without scaring community and parents, but we needed to inform parents even though this was totally precautionary,” she added.

Atwood and co-principal Amy Rex, in a January 1 email to parents, explained further: “Although this continues to be a work in progress at Harwood Union, the decision to re-open school with a sheriff on-site is one direct outcome. From this point forward, Harwood administration in conjunction with the superintendent and local law enforcement has decided that anytime a restraining order is issued that includes restricting access to the school -- be it a former student, parent/guardian or community member, then a sheriff will be present at school following the initial delivery of the order and until the administration is confident that the measure is no longer necessary.

“Please know that it is always the practice of the superintendent and co-principals to use a conservative approach in these matters. Additional information will be forthcoming detailing Harwood Union’s commitment to providing a secure learning environment,” their email continued.

Washington West Supervisory Union superintendent Brigid Scheffert also weighed in on the decision.

“Unfortunately, sometimes it feels damned if you do and damned if you don't. I understand that folks want to know everything, but they simply cannot. Confidentiality still applies around both students and employees. Largely, we and everyone else has been on vacation and we need to take this precautionary measure until we can check on things around this restraining order today. We are always using a better safe than sorry method,” Scheffert wrote.

“The sheriff is there in the event the individual with the restraining order shows up. This person is supposedly out of state at this time. I have been tracking his whereabouts with other officials and will be confident by the end of the day. The staff will be spoken to but not the students. The only thing we can say is that when we have a restraining order and/or an order of no trespass against an individual it is for good reason and oh by the way probably more common than the general public knows about. If we had not been on vacation for so many days, it would not likely be necessary,” she added.

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