Teachers at an Oregon school thought they and their colleagues had been shot by masked gunmen who stormed a faculty meeting and began randomly firing at people. Amid the shock and noise and adrenalin, teachers had to look down at their own bodies in order to realize they weren’t bleeding.
They weren’t bleeding because the shooters were firing blanks, and — ho, ho — the whole thing had just been a preparedness exercise. The two guys with the guns, wearing hoodies and masks, were school staff members acting on the instruction of principal Cammie DeCastro.
Staged on April 26, the shooting drill involved only teachers of Pine Eagle Charter School in the rural town of Halfway, Ore. It was a faculty in-service day, so students had the day off and weren’t present.
But the shock-and-awe invasion of a room full of 15 teachers produced both hypothetical casualties and real outrage. DeCastro said most of the teachers wouldn’t have survived the ordeal, had live rounds been used — a fact intended to emphasize the importance of active shooter training the school’s faculty had previously received from the county sheriff’s office.
“I’ll tell you, the whole situation was horrible,” said one teacher. “I got a couple in the front and a couple in the back.”
What’s horrible is the blurred line between the reality of what real, evil guys with guns can do and the fantasy of what people are willing to accept from those in charge — whether they be politicians or supervising bureaucrats — in power-driven efforts to keep them “safe.”
How is this not a crime? The idea for the drill was hatched not by local law enforcement (which itself would hardly qualify as a mitigating factor), but by a civilian administrator with no special prerogative to force upon other civilians the wholehearted acceptance that their freedom and safety were in immediate peril.
You’d not long walk the streets freely if you took it upon yourself to bring a gun filled with blanks into your workplace, point the thing at coworkers, enjoy a few fiendish moments of total dominance over a cacophonous, panicked, havoc-filled scene, then unmask yourself and smile in order to wave a cautionary finger at everyone while admonishing, “vigilance!”
Internet commenters fleshed out all the reasons, both practical and philosophical, why staging a surprise killing sends the wrong message. What if one of the “victims” had been concealed carrying and fired back? What if someone had a heart condition or asthma? How does this kind of false terrorism differ from shouting “fire” in a crowded theater? Doesn’t this kind of bullying further cement in the mind of the average person that a culture of authority-nurtured fear is necessary and normal?
On that count, it worked. After collecting themselves and reflecting, teachers were accepting of the drill.
“It made me analyze as a teacher what my role is for these babies,” said one.
“It heightened my awareness about what’s around me,” said another.