How not to run a school trip


Holy cow:

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.

The mock attack Thursday night was intended as a learning experience and lasted five minutes during the weeklong trip to a state park, said Scales Elementary School Assistant Principal Don Bartch, who led the trip.

“We got together and discussed what we would have done in a real situation,” he said.

But parents of the sixth-grade students were outraged.

“The children were in that room in the dark, begging for their lives, because they thought there was someone with a gun after them,” said Brandy Cole, whose son went on the trip.

Some parents said they were upset by the staff’s poor judgment in light of the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech that left 33 students and professors dead, including the gunman.

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.

After the lights went out, about 20 kids started to cry, 11-year-old Shay Naylor said.

“I was like, ‘Oh My God,’ ” she said. “At first I thought I was going to die. We flipped out.”

Principal Catherine Stephens declined to say whether the staff members involved would face disciplinary action, but said the situation “involved poor judgment.”


That’s my nomination for Understatement of the Year. I would prefer that these idiots be fired and then prosecuted for child abuse — certainly psychological intimidation qualifies as abuse, right? — and at the very least fired and never allowed near children again.

5 Comments

Filed under Education, Teaching

5 responses to “How not to run a school trip

  1. God forbid I be judgmental or anything, but I’m having a real hard time trying to imagine why they thought this would be a good idea, or why nobody interrupted during the planning session and said, “Uh, don’t you think this is just a bit over the top?”

  2. virusdoc

    This does raise the interesting question of whether (and how) one should prepare young children for disastrous events that i) are so rare as to be statistically indistinguishable from zero risk for any one individual and ii) so devastating when they do occur that there is little you can do to protect yourself if you’re a sixth grader.

    Nuclear attack drills in the 60’s come to mind. But it would seem that a simulated event is too traumatic for students of this age, and the focus should be on discussion, not terrorizing the kids.

  3. It seems to me that the best way to prepare yourself for this is to have a clear, easy-to-remember, easy-to-effect plan that is rehearsed to the point of being automatic. Something like this was done after Columbine — kids in some schools were trained to attack intruders en masse if one should happen to charge into the classroom. Controversial method — but it’s easy to remember and easy to do. We often do the same on an individual level when we train our kids at home to call 911, or turn around and run if a stranger tries to abduct them, etc.

  4. JimMc

    Let me give you the flipside of this: a kindergarten-only building that staged a mock security drill where the local observing police commander graded the principal with a low score. According to the report, she was “too timid” with her intercom voice. The principal explained that she wanted to present a calm and reassuring voice to the 5-year olds. She did not want to go over the top and risk scaring them. The police would not sign-off on the drill until it was performed again.

    So there you go: our modern scare-the-wits-out-of-people security state.

  5. We did those duck and cover drills in grade school. But here’s the difference: We knew they were drills. These kids didn’t.