Families in Winter Haven, Florida are enraged over a middle school’s active shooter “drill” that involved officers bursting into classrooms with guns drawn.
Students, teachers and parents were not notified that the Thursday event was a drill before it took place, ABC Action News reports.
“We actually thought that someone was going to come in there and kill us,” Lauren Marionneaux, a 7th-grader at Jewett Middle Academy, told Fox 13.
The girl said that at about 9 a.m., the principal announced the school was going on lockdown. Shortly afterwards, a cop and a school resource officer burst through the door wielding weapons, according to WTSP. The school resource officer’s Glock .45 caliber pistol was loaded, while the patrol officer’s AR-15 rifle was not.
Police told ABC Action News that while the drill was going on, school administrators notified parents that it wasn’t real, but not before some parents received terrified text messages from their children.
Stacy Ray, Marionneuax’s mother, said she was “panicking” because she got texts from Marionneaux and her siblings telling her there was a shooter in the school.
The intent, police said, was to make the drill resemble a a real-life active shooter as closely as possible. "It's very important that, when you do your drill, you do it without everyone knowing that it's a drill,” Winter Haven Police Chief Charlie Bird told Fox 13. "How you train and how you prepare is how you're going to react when everything goes bad."
Bird told WTSP that many did not behave appropriately after the principal announced the lockdown. "An entire classroom was found to still be conducting teaching," he said. "There were students still wandering around not where they were supposed to be. Students still back at a desk playing video games."
Nevertheless, the response from parents has been so negative that officers say they’ll be changing the procedure in the future. According to a police department press release obtained by Fox 13, future lockdown drills “will be performed by uniformed officers without weapons.”
Shockingly, this isn’t the first time a school has terrorized people with a “surprise” shooter drill. Last year, an after-hours “drill” at an Oregon elementary school consisted of two masked men with handguns bursting into a teachers’ meeting and firing blanks at random. “The whole situation was horrible,” one teacher said of the incident.