Missouri students and teachers required by law to participate in active shooter drills
March 6, 2014
Teachers in St. Francois County, Missouri, have complained after they were told part of their duties include being shot at with pellet guns during “active shooter” drills. Officials told the teachers they would be required to wear goggles to protect their eyes.
After four teachers contacted the Prosecuting Attorney’s office in the state, Associate Superintendent Sarah Long told KMOX in St. Louis said teachers “could sign up to work in department meetings and in other professional developmental opportunities” instead of participating in drills they found “too scary.”
Missouri students and teachers are required by law to participate in active shooter drills. “In August 2013, the state legislature took a cue from a handful of post-Sandy Hook lawmakers, like the ones in Illinois and Arkansas, and voted to require every school district to conduct simulated shooter drills,” NBC News reports. Drills are “meant to help law enforcement craft strategies to take down active shooters, as well as to familiarize teachers with the sound of guns and teach them to act quickly.”
According to Missouri State Teachers Association spokesman Todd Fuller, the issue has come up before in other school districts in the state. “I think what we’re going to see is a need to readdress and reevaluate the statute,” he told KMOX.
Jerrod Mahurin, the St. Francois County prosecutor, acknowledged teachers had contacted him asking for legal advice. They did not file a formal complaint.
Active shooter drills conducted by police are now routine across the country. In rural Oregon last year, teachers were traumatized when masked men appeared unannounced at a high school in Halfway and burst into a teachers’ lounge and opened fire with blanks.
In 2013, in El Paso, Texas, the parents of students at a local high school were outraged when officials conducted an unannounced drill. Parent Stephanie Belcher told the New York Daily News she received a panicked text message from her son as the drill unfolded. “I’m not kidding,” the student told his mother. “There’s gunshots and people screaming and we were locked in a storage closet.”
Students at the North Lake College in Irving, Texas, were subjected to an unannounced shooter drill in October, 2012. Following complaints about the exercise, the college insisted it sent out email notifications. However, according to KVUE, an Austin, Texas television station, faculty said they were not informed about the active shooter drill. “The Dallas County Community College District said college administrators call the drills ‘necessary,’ but they will continue to review the process and make changes as they are needed,” KVUE reported.
Less than a week after Sandy Hook, an elementary school in East Harlem, New York, conducted an unannounced exercise. The school was locked down and a woman’s voice said “shooter” and “intruder” over the school’s public address system. Police responded after a woman called 911. The incident was particularly troublesome due to the fact the school “serves 300 students with special needs, including those with severe emotional disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy and other disorders,” according to the New York Times.
In January of last year Illinois students in classrooms at the Cary-Grove High School endured police firing blanks in school hallways “in an effort to provide our teachers and students some familiarity with the sound of gunfire,” according to principal Jay Sargeant, CBS Chicago reported. “From the school’s request, they want to let the students know what the sound of gunshot might be, should that occur in their school,” Cary Police Chief Steven Casstevens added.
A number of parents said they were not informed prior to the drill, although the school district claimed it had sent out email notifying them. It said the uninformed parents did not receive the email due to a technical problem.
In the past drills have contained political messages. For instance, in 2004, cops in Muskegon, Michigan conducted a “mock attack” on a school bus as part of a terrorism response exercise. The terrorists portrayed in the exercise were said to be fanatical homeschoolers.
The exercise was a simulated “attack by a fictitious radical group called Wackos Against Schools and Education who believe everyone should be homeschooled,” Homeschool World reported in September, 2004.
The simulated attack was funded by the Department of Homeland Security.