WNYT.com

Mental health issues raised over Bennington teacher

Posted at: 01/04/2013 5:56 PM
Updated at: 01/04/2013 6:29 PM
By: Beth Wurtmann

BENNINGTON - "If you're watching this and think I'm crazy, I'm fine. I've a meeting with my licensed clinical social worker who I've been seeing every week for three years."

High school teacher Steven Davis made the point that he's not "crazy" several times in YouTube videos he posted to the Internet.

Bennington police said he voluntarily went to the hospital for a mental health evaluation, after he surrendered a Bushmaster semi automatic weapon Sunday night.

After reviewing the videos, police changed course and decided to hold Davis at the hospital against his will.

Reporter: "Is he in custody in any way?"

"I will confirm that he is not free to leave and go on his own accord," said Police Chief Paul Doucette. "He's not free to leave, correct."

Doucette said they don't plan to charge Davis with a crime.

We learned under Vermont law, when police or a medical doctor believe a person is suffering from a mental illness and presents a danger to themselves or society, a person can be confined.

"People have been characterized as being mentally ill which has led to these labelings as ticking timebombs, crazy, lunatics," said Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association of New York State.

Liebman said while public safety comes first, people shouldn't jump to conclusions about mental illness. He says the stigma of the illness has been ramping up in the wake of shootings across the country.

In the videos, Davis also talks about trying to improve the schools peacefully, without violence.

"It's always better to be safe I understand public safety is the first priority. But also you have to recognize just because someone is acting out doesn't necessarily mean they're mentally ill," Liebman said.

Davis does have the right to hearing with free legal representation to dispute his detention, according to Disability Rights Vermont.

A judge would decide whether psychiatric care is still warranted.

Meantime, Davis is on administrative leave from the Mount Anthony Union High School.