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3 students removed after 'possible threat' at Vermilion High School

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VERMILION — The “possible threat” that led to increased police presence at Vermilion Schools on Tuesday was prompted by a reference to a possible shooting.

On Monday evening, school officials released a statement to the school’s website and Facebook page, alerting parents that officials became aware of a possible threat, though Superintendent Phil Pempin did not provide specifics about the threat.

Pempin did tell The Chronicle-Telegram that it was not a bomb threat.

The students had been removed from school until a hearing is held later and will face punishment, he said.

School Resource Officer Brian Beckwith gave more detail Tuesday, stating that three students were removed from the lunch room at Vermilion High School shortly after 1 p.m. Monday by a custodian who reported them for “acting up.” One student was punching a lunch table and the trio was being loud, he said.

Once in the office, the three admitted to the conversation they were having at the lunch table about creating a school shooting. While the students did not make a specific threat against a person or a school, Beckwith said, one of the students did comment to another “not to come to school tomorrow.”

No comments or threats were made against other students, he said. The school was not evacuated and was deemed safe for students’ return Tuesday.

“The school took very swift action. We emergency removed them from school, and they were not welcomed back (Tuesday). We had extra patrols in school and three road patrols so that in the event something happened, we would be ready,” he said.

Beckwith said he spoke with the kids’ families to assure that none of the families owned weapons and the students did not have access to weapons before they were released back to their custodial guardians. The matter is under investigation to determine if criminal charges apply.

Pempin released a statement Monday evening after the day’s events were concluded, well after school was out for the day. He said the preliminary investigation lasted until about 6 p.m., which is why a letter was not sent home with students.

“There is a question of who said what and that’s what we’re getting to the bottom of,” Beckwith said. “Everybody gets their due process.”

The district is one of two in Ohio to tap a little-used law that allows districts to ask voters for tax money specifically for security and safety issues. The measure was approved by lawmakers after a Vermilion Schools board member and the town’s police chief lobbied for it in Columbus years ago.

Voters approved the levy by less than 100 votes in November. It will fund a new SRO to start the district this fall and other security measures.

Contact Rini Jeffers at rinijeffers@gmail.com.


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