Police charge student in CVU bomb scare (6/11/09)

June 11, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Hinesburg Police have charged a 17-year-old Champlain Valley Union High School student in conjunction with last week’s bomb threat.

Justin Rich of St. George was charged with one misdemeanor count of making false alarms and reports. According to Deputy Police Chief Fred Silber, Rich wrote a note claiming the school would “blow up” at 11:30 a.m. on June 3. He was allegedly the same student who reported discovering the note earlier that morning.

Rich was cited to appear in Vermont District Court in Burlington on June 29. The maximum sentence for the charge is a $5,000 fine and two years imprisonment.

Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan said prosecutors are taking the case seriously by charging Rich as an adult.

“We don’t take these threats lightly in this county,” Donovan said.

Police and school officials said Rich claimed to have discovered the note in a restroom, prompting school officials to evacuate all students and staff around 10 a.m., according to Silber. Classes for the rest of the day were canceled and students were bused to their hometowns.

Silber said school administrators and police searched the building, but found no suspicious devices.

The following day, police and school personnel conducted an audit of CVU’s computer network. The school’s information technology specialists were able to determine which computer produced the note and found that Rich was logged on at the time, Silber said.

Once police confronted Rich with the information, he provided a full confession, Silber said.

Along with his criminal case, Rich is also facing punishment from the school.

“He’ll be subject to our weapons policy,” said CVU Principal Sean McMannon.

Chittenden South Supervisory Union’s weapons policy calls for students found with a weapon to be suspended until a School Board hearing. The board could then choose to expel Rich for at least one year, according to the policy.

CVU’s bomb scare occurred mere hours after a suspicious device was found at the Essex Community Education Center, prompting the evacuation of the Essex High School and Center for Technology-Essex.

Silber said the seriousness of two bomb scares in two different towns “ratcheted up the concern for everyone.” He did not know if Rich’s alleged actions were inspired by knowledge of the threat in Essex.

Students at CVU are scheduled to make up Wednesday’s missed school day on Monday, June 15. The high school’s exam schedule has changed, with the final exam block scheduled for Friday. Monday will provide students a chance to make up exams they missed, and serve as the traditional final day of school.

CSSU Superintendent Elaine Pinckney said administrators wanted to “give a real clear message” that threats like this won’t be tolerated and students won’t get a free day off from school. Pinckney said seniors would still graduate Friday.

“My understanding is that seniors should be finished with their exams by Thursday,” Pinckney said.