Government portrays homeschoolers as terrorists
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Government portrays homeschoolers as terrorists

World Net Daily | September 22 2004

In an federally funded exercise to prepare emergency responders for a terrorist attack, a Michigan county concocted a scenario in which public-school children were threated by a fictitious radical group that believes everyone should be homeschooled.

The made-up group was called Wackos Against Schools and Education.

The exercise in Muskegon, Mich., yesterday simulated a situation in which a bomb on board a bus full of children knocks the vehicle on its side and fills the passenger compartment with smoke.

Dan Stout, director of Muskegon County Emergency Services, told WorldNetDaily the choice of the fictitious group certainly was not meant to offend homeschoolers.

"I don't think there was any particular objective other than to just have a name," he said.

A WND reader who saw a story about the exercise in the Muskegon Chronicle, however, said he was "outraged" at the characterization of the terrorists.

Stoudt said the general idea for the type of group came from the website of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, which suggests group names such as "Wackos Against Recreation" and other such "causes."

"If somebody is offended, I feel bad about that and sorry about that," he said. "There wasn't any offense meant to anybody who homeschools."

Kevin Galvin, a FEMA spokesman in Washington, D.C., told WND he could not address the issue but would find someone familiar with the homeland security simulations who could respond.

The exercise was funded by homeland security grants to area school districts and Muskegon county.

Stoudt said about $5,000 of federal funds went into yesterday's event, but its cost was much higher and was borne mostly by the volunteer efforts of other agencies and institutions involved, such as hospitals.

The emergency manager said that during the exercise there was no acting out of the "terrorist group." The storyline was used only to explain how the bus ended up on its side.

People simulating injuries were attended by the fire department, which transported them to a hospital. School officials also went through the exercise of contacting parents.

About 60 middle and high school students from local public schools acted out the part of victims, the Chronicle reported. College students were there to apply makeup that added to the realism. More than 200 people planned to observe the exercise, the paper said, including bus drivers, school administrators, emergency personnel and evaluators from agencies across the state.

Mock attack will test terrorism response

Muskegon Chronicle/September 20, 2004
By Lynn Moore

Terrorists will strike a busload of students in the Whitehall area on Tuesday, killing more than a half-dozen and sending dozens more to hospitals.

It's not a crystal ball that allows such a disaster to be foreseen. It's all in the plans -- disaster preparedness plans, that is.

The disaster won't be real, but it will look real, and the participants -- including students, emergency room personnel and firefighters -- will act as if it's real.

The exercise, one that is becoming familiar in the post 9/11 era, is part of attempts by emergency responders and Muskegon County school districts to prepare for the worst.

The exercise, which will involve the aftermath of a supposed explosion on a school bus at 9:30 a.m. at Durham and Holton-Whitehall roads in Whitehall Township, is being funded by homeland security grants awarded to several area school districts and Muskegon County.

Local school district transportation directors instigated the exercise because they wanted to test their abilities to respond to emergencies, said Tom Spoelman, transportation consultant for the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District. They eventually hooked up with Muskegon County Emergency Services, and planning for the event has been under way for about a year, Spoelman said.

The exercise will test not only school transportation directors, but also the Muskegon County Emergency Operations Plan, which involves many agencies throughout the county.

About 60 middle and high school students from Reeths-Puffer and Whitehall public schools will be part of the exercise, according to Kristin Tank, public information coordinator for the MAISD. Local law enforcement agencies, fire departments, human service agencies, transportation services and medical services will participate.

Students from Muskegon Community College and Reeths-Puffer will assist in applying makeup to add to the reality of the gruesome scene. Between 200 and 300 people will observe the exercise, including school bus drivers, school administrators, emergency personnel and evaluators from agencies across the state who will provide feedback.

The exercise will simulate an attack by a fictitious radical group called Wackos Against Schools and Education who believe everyone should be homeschooled. Under the scenario, a bomb is placed on the bus and is detonated while the bus is traveling on Durham, causing the bus to land on its side and fill with smoke.

The exercise will begin with the bus -- an out-of-service vehicle donated by Ravenna Public Schools -- on its side, having been placed there by Dale's 24 Hour Towing Service, which is donating its time and resources. Fire departments will respond and test their abilities to get at victims inside a mangled bus.

Hackley and Mercy General both will be able to test their new emergency rooms, each of which will get between 15 and 20 "victims." Eight or nine deceased students, represented by mannequins, will be transported to the county morgue, Tank said.

Frantic parents will be part of the staged disaster, flocking to schools and hospital emergency rooms.

The exercise is similar to an event staged a year ago at Heritage Landing that involved a mock chemical disaster, which also was the supposed work of terrorists and tested the county's emergency preparedness.

White Lake Fire Authority Chief Bob Phillips said his department is lucky to be heavily involved in Tuesday's exercise by virtue of the location planners chose.

"The potential exists (for a devastating incident) every day the school buses are on the road," Phillips said. "It's not something that happens a lot, but it's something we need to be trained in.

"That's what we're hoping for is to learn what works and what doesn't work before an incident actually happens."




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