After the tragic massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, districts across the country are adopting new policies to keep students safe and prepare them for future incidents. But one school in Florida may have taken things a bit too far after a school shooting drill left students frightened and parents furious.
Last Thursday morning, the principal at Jewett Middle Academy announced that the school was going into lockdown mode but failed to mention that it was part of a drill. As students curled against the classroom walls, they heard voices in the hallways. Suddenly, police officers burst into one of the classrooms with their guns drawn. The children panicked, and some even texted their parents that they were worried about being shot. Once the drill was complete, the school sent an email informing parents that an active lockdown drill had occurred. But at that point it was too little too late.
"I'm panicking because I'm thinking that it's a legitimate shooter is coming and that something bad is happening at the school," says Stacy Ray, whose children texted her during the drill. "It's very scary, especially from a parent's perspective. You hear all this horrible stuff on the news and you think it might be happening at your child's school." Following the incident, Ray and other parents requested that the school provide advance warning in the future, but Winter Haven's police chief Charlie Bird says that would defeat the purpose of the drill.
"It's very important that, when you do your drill, you do it without everyone knowing that it's a drill," he says. "How you train and how you prepare is how you're going to react when everything goes bad." Neighboring districts conduct similar drills, but representatives note that they are done without weapons and when children are not in the school.
After Thursday's incident, the Winter Haven police agreed that they would no longer use weapons during active shooter drills but would continue to conduct them without warning.