Students at a Florida middle school were terrified when their principal announced the school was on lockdown and police with guns burst into their classrooms. They later learned the incident was part of an active shooter drill, which was intended to test the school’s readiness for a real emergency.
Neither teachers, parents nor students had been notified of the drill. At least one middle-schooler said students thought someone was going to come in and kill them.
Critics say the school went too far, and the drill could cause post-traumatic stress disorders. School officials said, "It's standard procedure for these types of drills to take place without giving parents, students or teachers advance warning.”
"I think the trauma in this drill was the same as the real thing, because they didn't know it was a drill," plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon says.
The school's principal later was suspended, and school officials said future drills would be conducted without weapons.
Michele Gay, a school safety activist and mother of a child killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, works to educate schools about how to best prepare students and teachers for emergencies. She says any safety awareness education should be tailored to students' age group. Young children might be introduced to police officers and other first responders, while older children might be shown videos or participate in announced drills.
"The goal of any kind of exercise in a school should never be to scare anyone," she says.
Learn more about Michele Gay's Safe and Sound Schools initiative.