School superintendent: Accused killer, principal won’t be in school

By Guy Page

Hussein Mohamed won’t be attending classes at his Burlington public school. And, BHS administrator Deb Beaupre remains on administrative leave, and will remain so for the foreseeable future, after she pulled a fire alarm in an effort to stop a fight in progress.

That’s the upshot of a November 3 letter sent to the school community by Burlington School Superintendent Tom Flanagan. The letter also praised academic and sports accomplishments in Burlington schools, including the naming of 5th Grade Teacher Aziza Malik from Champlain Elementary as Vermont’s 2024 Teacher of the Year.

As reported by the BHS Register, Beaupre’s leave is connected to her pulling the fire alarm during lunch on Wednesday (10/18) in response to a student altercation. 

“I decided to evacuate the building to ensure safety and provide emotional space to students and staff amid a heightened, atypical situation,” Beaupre, the 6th BHS principal in seven years, said in an email to families that went out Friday (10/20).

Under Vermont law, anyone who pulls a fire alarm when there is not fire “…shall be imprisoned for not more than one year or fined not more than $1,000.00, or both.” The incident is still under investigation and Flanagan did not give a timeframe for when it will be resolved. 

Burlington police say they are not investigating the incident. Fire Chief Mike LaChance told VDC he didn’t have a problem with a school official pulling a fire alarm under the known circumstances, but that fire marshals are investigating the pulled alarm. 

Hussein Mohamed, 14, of Burlington was charged as an adult with second-degree murder for the October 30 slaying of a Shelburne 16-year-old. The criminal court in Addison County released Mohamed to his parents’ custody. The judge requires a 24-hour home curfew except for therapy, medical treatment, court appearances, and ‘school’ – leaving some parents wondering if the youth who police say shot a 16-year-old in the back in a car in Bristol would be attending school with their children days later. 

Vermont has had no dedicated secure juvenile detention facility since Woodside in Essex Junction closed. Some youth are held in out-of-state facilities, Gov. Scott confirmed at a press conference last month. 

Flanagan responded to both issues in his letter:

“BHS Student – This week I delivered tragic news about one of our students involved in a heartbreaking incident. I am aware that there was a statement given during public court proceedings that was picked up by local news outlets that said a student who has been charged with a very serious crime could return to school. I want you to know that we take student safety very seriously and we have been working closely with mental health providers and the family to ensure the student and our entire educational community is safe. Part of this work is to ensure the student is receiving the appropriate educational services and care, which we cannot offer safely at their former school at this time. With that in mind, we will continue to work closely with this student and family to ensure that we can continue to offer alternative educational services in the safest way possible. 

“BHS Leadership – At this time BHS Principal Deb Beaupre remains on paid administrative leave and we do not yet have a timeline for when we will know more. I want to thank Assistant Principal Sabrina Westdijk for stepping into the role of Acting Principal during this time. Principal Westdijk and the leadership team at BHS have already shown great strength and leadership through a difficult time and I am confident in their abilities to move our school forward. I will keep you as updated as I can as we move through this.”

Also, the Rutland area NAACP has issued a public statement saying charging the Black youth (Hussein is of Somali descent) as an adult shows ‘potential for bias.’ 

Categories: Burlington, Education

3 replies »

  1. The things you gotta say to keep your job in Burlington. If you’re the police chief you can’t mention illegal drug use without saying ‘it’s a disease’ removing user responsibility. Now the fire chief has to say it’s ok to pull the fire alarm, even though there is no fire.

  2. Principal pulls fire alarm…student hears fire and pulls trigger I knew there was a simple explanation for all this

  3. Pulling that alarm was actually a pretty good idea, given that the staff probably aren’t allowed to use physical means to stop a fight. The law was intended to stop a SENSELESS use of the fire alarm. This was pretty smart.