Local cops are justifying their actions, but parents are outraged, because they believe that their children were unnecessarily traumatized and put in danger.
As reported by FOX 13, police in Winter Haven, Florida, say they will now change their policy after an active shooter drill at a middle school severely frightened both students and parents, none of whom were notified ahead of time that SWAT officers were going to burst into a classroom, guns drawn.
The local station reported Nov. 14:
Lauren Marionneaux, a seventh-grade student at Jewett Middle Academy, said it was about 9 a.m. … when the principal announced the school was going on lockdown.
Students huddled into classrooms waiting for further instructions. Instead, they started hearing voices in the hallway.
“A lot of people started getting scared because we thought it was a real drill,” Lauren said. “We actually thought that someone was going to come in there and kill us.”
A pair of cops burst into her classroom with weapons drawn; one was carrying an AR-15 assault rifle, according to Winter Haven police officials. The intrusion so frightened Lauren that she immediately texted her mother, Stacy Ray.
“I’m panicking because I’m thinking that it’s a legitimate shooter is coming, that something bad is happening at the school,” said Ray, who additionally received similar text messages from her other very frightened children. One of them said, “I thought he was going to shoot me.”
“We have to do it this way“
Only after the exercise did school officials send out an email in which they described it as a “lockdown active shooter drill.” Again, until then neither students nor parents had a clue that the drill was to take place.
Polk County Schools spokesman Jason Geary told reporters that it is standard operating procedure for such drills to occur without prior notification to parents or warning to children and teachers. Winter Haven Police Chief Charlie Bird added that a lack of prior notification was necessary in order to be able to adequately evaluate the school’s response.
“It’s very important that, when you do your drill, you do it without everyone knowing that it’s a drill,” Bird told the local FOX station. “How you train and how you prepare is how you’re going to react when everything goes bad.”
He further said that a school resource officer would discuss and plan ahead of time with the school’s principle the next time the institution and the department schedules a similar drill, but he insisted that no one else will know ahead of time.
Ray added that she and other parents felt it was too extreme for police to have rushed in with their weapons drawn — especially since the politically correct education establishment these days will ensure that small children get expelled if they play “cops and robbers” or “cowboys and Indians” on the playground using their fingers as “guns.”
“It’s very scary, especially from a parent’s perspective,” Ray told the local station. “You hear all this horrible stuff on the news and you think it might be happening at your child’s school.”
“This is all for their own good”
Other behavioral experts have criticized such drills because they see them as indoctrinating kids to live in fear of authority and extremist threats.
Bird dismissed such concerns, of course, insisting that such exercises must be held — and in the manner in which the recent exercise was held — because that ultimately may benefit children.
“It really is to protect the children and at no point in time would we endanger any of the children,” Bird said.
The local FOX 13 station reported that it had contacted surrounding Hillsborough and Pasco County school districts, to see if they had held similar drills. Officials with those districts said they had — but only in empty buildings and usually over the summer.
In response to the parental outrage, the Winter Haven P.D. did say that future drills would be held without officers drawing weapons.