Burlington Police, School District Issue Apologies After Mock Shooting Scares Students

Published: June 10, 2024

BURLINGTON, Vt. — The Burlington Police Department (BPD) and Burlington School District (BSD) issued apologies last week after a mock shooting hosted at the department headquarters upset high schoolers in attendance.

Burlington High School officials said about 20 students from the school’s forensic class visited BPD on Wednesday as part of its Year End Studies program, VTDigger reports. During a presentation, three officers reenacted an armed robbery. While the gun being used was fake, simulated screaming and gunshots were played behind where the students were seated, which “may have left some feeling confused and frightened.”

The school officials said the purpose of the demonstration “was to make a point about how witness statements can be unreliable, and detectives wanted the event to be as realistic as possible.”

“It was clear the students and staff were negatively impacted. We didn’t realize the demonstration would happen without warning or a chance to properly prepare students to understand what would be taking place,” they wrote. “The detectives did apologize after they realized that the reenactment did not translate well to high school students.”

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Russ Elek, a spokesperson for BSD, said school officials were aware that a reenactment of a gunshot-related crime would occur, but they “didn’t realize the presentation would happen without warning.”

BPD issued an apology to “those who were upset by the specific scenario and crime scene portion of the presentation,” but said they asked the school in late May if the reenactment would be okay for the students. BPD said a school official replied, “I think these students will be fine with this simulation. We will give a heads-up to parents and students.”

Burlington Mayor Emma Mulvaney-Stanak said the incident was the result of a communication breakdown and that she plans to meet with school and police officials this week, according to WCAX.

School officials said counseling and mental health support would be available for those in attendance, and BPD said they planned to meet with students and staff on Friday to discuss the presentation and its impact.

“We hope that this can be a reflective growth opportunity for all parties,” they wrote.

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