Parents are outraged after a Florida middle school, in conjunction with local police, surprised students with an active shooter drill that left many of them traumatized.
According to reports, the drill took place on Thursday morning, and the events started when the principal of Jewett Middle Academy in Winter Haven, Florida announced that the school would be placed on lockdown. As students huddled in their classrooms, they began to hear voices coming from the hallway and feared for their lives.
“A lot of people started getting scared because we thought it was a real drill," said seventh-grader Lauren Marionneaux to My Fox Tampa. "We actually thought that someone was going to come in there and kill us.”
Suddenly, two police officers burst into the seventh-grader’s classroom with gun drawn, and one of them was pointing an AR-15 directly at them. Terrified for her life, Marionneaux texted her mother.
“I'm panicking because I'm thinking that it's a legitimate shooter is coming, that something bad is happening at the school,” said Marionneaux’s mother Stacy Ray. “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.”
Ray says that her other children also texted her, and one of the text messages read, “I thought he was going to shoot me.”
Parents are outraged that nobody was informed of the active shooter drill before it took place, but both school officials and local police defend the events, saying that they do the drill in order to gauge what the reaction would be is such an event actually took place.
"It's very important that, when you do your drill, you do it without everyone knowing that it's a drill," said Winter Haven Police Chief Charlie Bird. "How you train and how you prepare is how you're going to react when everything goes bad. It really is to protect the children and at no point in time would we endanger any of the children.”
A school district spokesperson told The Washington Post that the drill was done to keep students safe.
“Unfortunately, no one gets an advanced notice of real life emergencies,” Polk County Public Schools spokesman said. “We don’t want students to be scared, but we need them to be safe.”
Following the active shooter drill and the parental outrage that followed, Winter Haven police said they had evaluated their procedure and made drastic changes.
“Further lock-down drills that occur at schools within the city limits of Winter Haven,” the department’s press release reads, “will be performed by uniformed officers without weapons.”