Tags: active shooter drill | Winter Haven | Florida | Sandy Hook | Newtown

Florida Unannounced Active Shooter Drill Angers Parents

By    |   Monday, 17 November 2014 03:12 PM

After parents expressed outrage that an active shooter drill would be conducted without their consent or knowledge, a Florida police department has announced a change in policy.

"Further lockdown drills that occur at schools within the city limits of Winter Haven will be performed by uniformed officers without weapons," the Winter Haven Police Department said in a press release, according to FOX 13.

Last Thursday morning, shortly after the principal at Jewett Middle Academy announced the school was going on lockdown, several police officers entered the school with their weapons drawn. While the fear the children experienced was real, the lockdown was not.

"A lot of people started getting scared because we thought it was a real drill. We actually thought that someone was going to come in there and kill us," Lauren Marionneux told Fox 13.

A spokesperson for Polk County Schools told reporters it was common not to alert parents of a planned "active shooter drill," and Winter Haven Police Chief Charlie Bird also defended the decision.

"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."

Conducting unannounced and realistic drills is not an uncommon practice for many school districts around the nation.

“What we’ve done over the last several years is incrementally made the drills more realistic, more intense and change them up every year,” said Sheriff Graham Atkinson of Piedmont, North Carolina told FOX 5 News.

In their drills, a "bad guy" will enter a school, hand a card identifying himself to the first staff member he encounters, and then a call is made over the intercom saying that the school was in lockdown.

In the wake of the Dec. 14, 2012, shootings in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, a number of state legislatures passed bills requiring school districts to conduct such drills, according to the Education Commission of the States (ECS).

In 2013, 10 states passed legislation updating their policies about school drills, including changing the frequency or purpose required drills.

Just a month after Sandy Hook, Anthony Bland, coordinator of the New Jersey office of school preparedness and emergency planning, informed the New Jersey Board of Education it would begin making unannounced visits in order to ensure compliance with lockdown rules, according to the Bergen County Record.

In August 2013, the Missouri state legislature voted to require every school district to hold simulated drills.

According to a July 2014 ECS report, more than 20 states now require lockdown or similar types of drills, and 30 states require schools to have broader emergency plans.

Not all parents and students support the drills even when they are made aware before the drill is conducted, as was the case at Cary-Grove High School in Cary, Illinois.

"I think it's a little over the top, like it's too much. I think we understand what could happen. I just think that it's unnecessary," student Bobbi Breuer told NBC Chicago.

To alleviate nerves, some school districts take additional measures to mitigate fear among students.

For example, according to the protocol employed by the Shaker Heights, Ohio, school district, teachers "will explain the drill to students in advance, using age-appropriate language. Parents may also wish to discuss the drills with their children, emphasizing that they are for practice, just like fire drills."

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After parents expressed outrage that an active shooter drill would be conducted without their consent or knowledge, a Florida police department has announced a change in policy.
active shooter drill, Winter Haven, Florida, Sandy Hook, Newtown
Monday, 17 November 2014 03:12 PM
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