Police in Winter Haven stormed Jewett Middle Academy with guns drawn Thursday, leaving students and staff terrified with no idea what was happening, only to find out afterwords that it was an Active Shooter Safety Drill. However, by the time students learned they were not in danger many had already sent texts to parents creating an even bigger panic according to Washington Post.
School official Jason Gearey reportedly sent an email to parents after the fact, but says in email statement to WP that “Unfortunately, no one gets an advanced notice of real life emergencies…We don’t want students to be scared, but we need them to be safe.”
Winter Haven’s Interim Police Chief Charlie Bird says that it is imperative that students, staff and police know how to react in the case of a real emergency and unannounced drills differ from announced drill because their is real fear involved.
Students describe policemen barging into classrooms with (loaded) service weapons drawn, in one case a (unloaded) AR-15. The weapons were pointed to the ground but in the chaos that would not have alleviated students fears. One student, Lauren says that an officer pointed a loaded handgun at her.
[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Student Lauren Marionneaux ” author_title=”Describing Active Shooter Drill “]
I thought he was going to shoot me.
Lauren, told Fox13 that she did indeed think the drill was real and thought their lives were in danger as the school went into the lockdown. Her mother, Stacy Ray has multiple children in the school and received frightening messages from all of them.
[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Stacy Ray” author_title=”Parent of children at Jewett Middle Academy “]
I’m panicking because I’m thinking that it’s a legitimate shooter is coming, that something bad is happening at the school…You hear all this horrible stuff on the news and you think it might be happening at your child’s school.
Despite the fear that some of the students felt, some were not caught off guard. Chief Bird says that “an entire classroom was found to still be conducting teaching. There were students still wandering around not where they were supposed to be. Students still back at a desk playing video games.”
Regardless of the effectiveness of the unannounced drills, Bird says that future drills officers will not have weapons in their hands.