Parents furious after unannounced shooter drill at Polk middle s – FOX 13 News

| November 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

Parents furious after unannounced shooter drill at Polk middle s – FOX 13 News.

By: Aaron Mesmer, FOX 13 News

WINTER HAVEN (FOX 13) – Police say they are changing their policy following an active shooter drill at middle school that frightened students and parents who weren’t notified ahead of time.

Lauren Marionneaux, a seventh-grade student at Jewett Middle Academy, said it was about 9 a.m. Thursday when the principal announced the school was going on lockdown.

Students huddled into classrooms waiting for further instructions. Instead, they started hearing voices in the hallway.

“A lot of people started getting scared because we thought it was a real drill,” Lauren said. “We actually thought that someone was going to come in there and kill us.”

Two police officers burst into Lauren’s classroom with their guns drawn — one carrying, what Winter Haven police said, was an AR-15 rifle. Lauren was so scared she texted her mother, Stacy Ray.

“I’m panicking because I’m thinking that it’s a legitimate shooter is coming, that something bad is happening at the school,” said Ray, who also received frightened text messages from her other children, including one that read, “I thought he was going to shoot me.”

The school sent an email out after the exercise, called a “lockdown active shooter drill,” to let parents know it had taken place.

Jason Geary, a spokesperson for Polk County Schools said it’s standard procedure for these types of drills to take place without advanced warning to parents, students or teachers. Winter Haven Police Chief Charlie Bird said police are able to evaluate a school’s response.

“It’s very important that, when you do your drill, you do it without everyone knowing that it’s a drill,” Bird said. “How you train and how you prepare is how you’re going to react when everything goes bad.”

Bird said a school resource officer would plan out with the school’s principal when a lockdown active shooter drill will happen, but no one else has to know.

Ray, meanwhile, said some parents feel it was extreme for police to have their guns drawn.

“It’s very scary, especially from a parent’s perspective,” Ray said. “You hear all this horrible stuff on the news and you think it might be happening at your child’s school.”

Winter Haven’s police chief said it’s all necessary to make it as realistic as possible.

“It really is to protect the children and at no point in time would we endanger any of the children,” Bird insisted.

FOX 13 contacted the Hillsborough and Pasco County school districts. Spokespersons for each district said similar drills are conducted in empty buildings, usually over the summer or during one of the holiday breaks.

Polk County Schools on Thursday released a statement explaining the drill, which read, in part, “Parents, students and staff are typically not notified about lockdown drills. For example, we do not give advanced notice of fire drills in order to evaluate how safety procedures work…The safety of our students is of the utmost importance. We continually evaluate and improve our safety procedures. Drills are an important component of our preparedness… We regret any concern that parents and students might have experienced in how the drill was conducted.”

Friday morning, Winter Haven police announced that they had “evaluated procedures” for such drills and opted to make a change.

“Further lock-down drills that occur at schools within the city limits of Winter Haven will be performed by uniformed officers without weapons,” the department said in a press release.

Category: National Firearm News

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