The Kents Hill School in Readfield went into lockdown Tuesday after a report of a student on campus with a weapon. Students at the independent prep school were directed to shelter at the Bodman Performing Arts Center or stay in their dorm rooms while authorities swept the campus. Police said the threat was unfounded and are continuing to investigate the matter. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

READFIELD — Four Readfield-area schools went into lockdown Tuesday after a report of a student with a weapon on the Kents Hill campus.

Administrators at the private college preparatory school directed boarding students to stay in their dorms and day students to report to the Bodman Performing Arts Center while law enforcement searched belongings, according to a news release posted on the school’s website.

Authorities did not find any weapons in student spaces on the campus, administrators said. Police later said the threat stemmed from a student’s “off-the-cuff comment” to another student as a “joke” that a teacher overheard.

“As a result of our investigation and teachers going through the school, it was deemed as unfounded,” said Lt. Chris Read of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday afternoon.

Read said the sheriff’s office received a call at 8:54 a.m. from Kents Hill and sent two deputies who searched the student spaces and classrooms.

School administrators first learned of the comment about 10 minutes earlier and worked to verify the remark with several other students who had heard it, according to Kents Hill Headmaster Chris Cheney.


Deputies cleared the scene by 10:30 a.m., but the investigation is still ongoing, Read said.

The incident prompted lockdowns at the nearby Maranacook Community High School, Maranacook Community Middle School and Readfield Elementary School “out of an abundance of caution,” said Jay Charette, superintendent of Regional School Unit 38. The lockdowns began at 10:30 a.m. and were lifted at 11:05 a.m.

Charette credited Deputy Nathan Johnson, the school resource officer,  and Maranacook Community High School Principal Michele LaForge for making the call due to the proximity of Kents Hill to the three Readfield-based RSU 38 schools.

The public high and middle schools on Millard Harrison Drive are about 3 miles away from the Kents Hill campus at 1614 Main St. The elementary school is about 4 1/2 miles away, on South Road.

“We made the decision to be extra cautious and keep everyone in place with a lock-in until the situation was resolved in the neighboring school,” Charette told the Kennebec Journal. “We decided to implement a lock-in to all the schools located in Readfield again based on the location of the neighboring school.”

Read said the Sheriff’s Office did not respond to the Readfield-area schools and that the school resource officer took care of the situation.


The incident comes a day after law enforcement received a hoax text message about an alleged active shooter at Casco Bay High School in Portland and students at Mt. Ararat Middle School in Topsham were dismissed from school due to a bomb threat left over voicemail. The Topsham school received a second bomb threat over voicemail Monday night.

Classes at Kents Hill were suspended until after noon on Tuesday.

“We recognize that members of our community will respond to this situation in a number of different ways, all of which are normal,” administrators wrote in the news release. “The Health Center is available to provide any additional support and a number of safe spaces across campus.”

Cheney said no student, or staff member, should have to worry about people saying threatening comments.

“It’s not how any kid should be going to school,” he said. “The comment, whether unfounded or real, and the trauma on top of everything else — it’s unfortunate and unfair to kids. We all — all schools and law enforcement — have to work together.”

Around 240 students attend Kents Hill School. RSU 38 has 1,143 students across the district.

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