Families & the Community

Principal Suspended After Failing to Give Parents Notice of School Shooting Drill

By Evie Blad — November 19, 2014 1 min read

A Florida school district suspended a principal after her school held a realistic active shooter drill, complete with police carrying weapons, without first warning frightened students and parents that it was only a drill.

The Polk County School District will also change its rules for active shooter drills following the incident, which took place at Jewett Middle Academy Magnet last week, TheLedger.com reports. From that report:

The incident drew national attention and public criticism after weapon-carrying officers checked darkened, locked-down classrooms, frightening students and parents who hadn't been told it was only a drill. ... A Winter Haven Police Department spokeswoman said last week that one officer involved in the drill had a loaded handgun out while checking a classroom and the another officer had an unloaded AR-15 rifle with no magazine, and both were pointed toward the ground. Some students told parents that officers pointed guns at them."

The principal has been put on leave pending an internal investigation, district officials said.

The district has not had a policy of warning students, parents, or staff about drills in the past, officials said. Under new rules, officials will not carry weapons during drills, and administrators will send notes home before drills.

I’ve long wondered about best practices for active shooter and lockdown drills, especially as more states require them more regularly in the wake of the December 2012 shootings in Newtown, Conn. How should schools make the excercises valuable learning experiences for officers, educators, and students while also avoiding unnecessary fear? Even routine lockdown drills without weapons or simulations surely create an impression for young minds. How should schools handle that?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.