Baileyville Schools Close in Response to Threat

By Lura Jackson

 

On Friday, March 16th, a potential threat to the safety of the Baileyville schools was received and reviewed by law enforcement and school administration, culminating in the closure of both the high school and the elementary school. The suspect was quickly apprehended and no injuries took place. The incident provided the opportunity for the Baileyville network to test its safety protocols and procedures and to determine how they may be improved for the future.

According to Baileyville Police Chief Bob Fitzsimmons, the 19-year old suspect is a former student of the high school. The threats were primarily related to harming himself in the vicinity of the schools. Woodland Junior-Senior High School Principal Thomas Vicaire explained that the initial text was received by a female student that immediately relayed them to the police and then to school administration. Together, the officers and Principal Vicaire talked with the student to assess the potential threat. Fitzsimmons determined that the safest course of action would be to close the high school and elementary schools. “So we put into practice the plans we have for that,” Vicaire said.

Busses were summoned from each of the outlying towns to take home their respective students. Vicaire noted that it did take a while for some of the busses to arrive, as they had to travel from Waite and Cooper and other locations that are a fair distance away from the school. By mid-morning, however, all of the students had been released from the school.

Fitzsimmons made the appropriate contacts around the county and the state to locate the suspect, a task that did not take long thanks to the communication in place between law enforcement officials. Within a short time, he was contacted by the Orono police department and advised that the suspect had just left the university campus and was traveling down Route 9. Deputy Mike Crabtree observed the suspect less than an hour later, and multiple agencies mobilized to safely contain him without incident. The suspect was sent to Down East Community Hospital to be assessed for mental health. “The plans we have in place work,” Fitzsimmons said. “The correct steps were taken at every turn. This town should be very proud of its students and school staff.”

 “He managed the situation very well,” Vicaire said of Fitzsimmons and his efforts to maintain student safety while securing the suspect. Vicaire expressed that he was amazed at how well the students did during the evacuation protocol. “The kids did an outstanding job, and so did the staff. The students showed great character, they stepped up, and they did exactly as we instructed them to.”

On Monday, the high school held an assembly with Chief Fitzsimmons present to address the students. Vicaire said that notably there were “no concerned faces” on the students on Monday, though of course there had been on Friday. A counselor was available on campus to speak with students if any of them did need someone to talk to about the incident. “It was absolutely fantastic. They’re really strong kids. I credit that to their families and the support of the community.”

After the assembly, school administration and law enforcement met to discuss what could be improved. The biggest take-away from the incident was the recognition of potential issues with the bus system. Vicaire noted the travel time involved in bringing the busses in, and said he wished that the school had its own fleet to bring students to safety. Aside from that, when students were being released onto busses, the busses were announced by their number when they arrived. Students, however, generally don’t know their bus numbers but rather their drivers – a situation that could be a problem in an emergency when drivers may be different. To prevent both the travel-time delays and the confusion over which bus is which, Vicaire said that the school would be looking at simply getting as many busses to it as possible and sending all of the students away on them to a safe place where they could then be appropriately distributed to their homes.

“This time the system worked,” Vicaire said. “We’ve had a lot of positive feedback. But we will continue to practice and to improve.”