You’re all gonna die — SIKE!

When I first caught this story through MSNBC, I was taken aback.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Staff members of an elementary school staged a fictitious gun attack on students during a class trip, telling them it was not a drill as the children cried and hid under tables.

Now, I remember doing fire drills and tornado drills in school… and even lock down drills in high school. We had bomb threats, and once we went into lock down because there was an armed suspect in a neighborhood adjacent to campus that the cops were after. Lock down lasted about an hour, until he was arrested, and then normalcy resumed. Even during that lock down experience, we were never told “there is a gunman on the loose – hide under your desks!” As a matter of fact, there was just some vague code announced, and all the teachers closed the blinds and closed and locked their doors. We weren’t allowed to leave the room without a teacher, and then only in emergencies (like going to the bathroom). Teachers continued teaching, even. Nobody said what had happened until after the guy was arrested, to prevent us from panicking.

We were never told we were in danger when we weren’t. And even when we were in possible danger, our teachers and administrators were sure to stay calm and keep us that way. Sure, we wanted to know what was going on, but we truly didn’t need to know until it was over. It only would have made the situation worse.

This situation is horrible for several reasons, not the least of which is that students were made to feel that they were in danger when they weren’t.

During the last night of the trip, staff members convinced the 69 students that there was a gunman on the loose. They were told to lie on the floor or hide underneath tables and stay quiet. A teacher, disguised in a hooded sweat shirt, even pulled on a locked door.

Now, of course the media sensationalized this a bit, but let’s think about this. These students are 11 or 12 years old… do they really need to know there’s a man with a gun on the loose, even if it’s true? In a real situation, should they have told these kids details that would just scare them and put them into panic, or could they have been more vague?

And the teacher pulling on the door? That’s going way too far.

I understand what they were trying to do – I’m a teacher, I can see the importance of being prepared for a situation like this – but they handled it horribly. Scaring students unnecissarily only erodes the trust they have in you, and doesn’t really prepare them for a similar situation in real life. And, truly, it’s not the students who need to be prepared for this, it’s the teachers.

I seriously doubt any of them would be laughing had this stunt been pulled on them in a staff meeting.

However, a lot of people are saying that these teachers should lose their jobs – I don’t agree with that. I do think they should be educated on how to handle emergency situations, particularly away from school, and possibly disciplined for their lapse in judgement, but I think losing their jobs is more than harsh.

Shay [one of the sixth graders involved] and her mother, Niki Morris, said they forgave the teachers and wanted to move on. It “went too far because it was too gruesome,” Shay said. “You’d think a teacher wouldn’t do it, but they did. But they’re great teachers. If (the assistant principal) loses his job, I will break into tears. He’s the best assistant principal I’ve ever had.” (source)

There’s a response on the school’s website, as well:

Clearly, there are many versions of this situation and the coverage has been sensationalized. Regardless of the versions, this prank crossed the line in what would be appropriate to tell young children, especially in light of recent incidents.

It goes on to say that the incident is being investigated and that proper action will be taken, I just hope they are balanced in their discipline. There are a lot of teachers who have no idea what to do if such a situation was to happen for real, and that’s the real tragedy, here.

Let’s use this as a sign that we need to educate our teachers, not just punish them.