Anti-violence letter to Vermont students
Just interesting to see how issues are addressed elsewhere.
STATE OF VERMONT
Vermont Department of Education
120 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05620
March 30, 2005
To Vermont students,
As many of us are, I am disturbed and saddened by events such as the Red Lake, Minnesota and
Littleton, Colorado shooting incidents. I am writing to ask your help to prevent events such as
these from happening in Vermont. As Commissioner of Education, one of my responsibilities is
to work with school administrators, teachers, parents and law enforcement officials to make our
schools safe places for you, your fellow students, and those working in the building. State Board
of Education rules require every school to have a plan for dealing with emergencies of all kinds,
including incidents involving weapons. We must ensure that you are aware of what to do in an
emergency and why you should understand the content of your school emergency plans.
However, I believe it is much more important for students and adults to work together to prevent
weapons-related emergencies from ever happening in the first place. Unfortunately, even here in
Vermont, students sometimes bring weapons to school or use them outside of school to injure
themselves or others. We all need to do a better job of understanding why this is happening and
how we can get involved to help these individuals and prevent terrible events from occurring.
As a student, you are often aware of how others are feeling on any given day through your
observations, conversations and interactions. If you feel that a fellow student is likely to become
self-destructive or violent, I ask you to inform an adult in your school. I know that this request
contradicts some of the rules of peer pressure the ones that say dont rat or tattle on a
fellow student or dont get involved. However, if you are well intended, reporting your
concerns to an adult you trust is an attempt to help the individual, not to get them in trouble.
Your action could also save lives.
The pressures of growing up in Vermont today can be overwhelming. You are faced with issues
that my generation did not experience at all or in the same way. Often, the reason that students
bring weapons to school is that they have been driven to desperation and are responding to some
real or perceived threat to their own safety, such as being victimized by bullies. Bullying should
never be tolerated and students, as well as all adults, bear the responsibility for doing everything
possible to prevent it. Even though bullying is a terrible act, we all know that a violent response,
especially one involving a weapon, will not solve the problem.
I need your help in convincing your fellow students that violence is not something we can
tolerate in our communities. There is no happy ending for anyone when violence erupts in a
school. There isalways a better way of dealing with problems and I hope you will look for ways
to help each other get the support and guidance you need. If you are a student who is feeling
desperate, please seek assistance from your parents, a teacher, counselor, principal or other adult
We in Vermont live in a relatively safe and secure environment, and I appreciate your help in
making our schools even safer. Thank you for your help.
Richard H. Cate
Vermont Commissioner of Education