Burlington, VT- After just five months on the job, Burlington High School Principal Debra Beaupre has been placed on paid leave after pulling a fire alarm when a fight broke out in school.
In an email to teachers, staff, students and parents, the Burlington School District on Monday said Assistant Principal Sabrina Westdijk would be acting principle in Beaupre’s absence.
Superintendent Tom Flanagan said he “knows a disruption in the middle of the school year is hard,” and wants parents to know he is “committed to the success of our students and faculty, who are committed to working as quickly as possible to resolve this situation.”
Beaupre sent an email to parents in recent days apologizing and detailed her handling of an October 18 altercation between students in the lunchroom. She said she “decided to evacuate the building to ensure safety and provide emotional space to staff and students,” adding that she “regrets if any student or staff member are experiencing any lingering unsettledness.”
District officials would not say if the incident was a factor.
Angelee Smith, a student, said she saw the fight break out as she was headed to lunch. She said she saw Beapre put on noise-canceling headphones and to go to the fire alarm.
“She struggled to get it up, and when she did she pulled it and immediately left the situation,” Smith said. “She wasn’t trying to intervene, she wasn’t trying to get student support or counselors or handle the fight by herself — she just wanted everybody out.”
Other students say they have been frustrated with Beaupre’s handling of similar situations throughout the school year.
The district says the length of the leave is unknown. Flanagan added that he and his staff are working diligently to get more staff support for students.