Halfway, OR- A lawsuit was filed last Friday by Linda McLean, an elementary school teacher who alleged that a surprise “active shooter” drill, held at Pine Eagle Charter School, led to severe emotional distress.
The Oregonian reported that the drill took place on April 26, 2013. It was held on an inservice day when there were no children attending. According to the suit, a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt and goggles ambushed McLean’s classroom, pointed a pistol at her head, and fired blanks. “You’re dead,” the man said.
The hooded man turned out to be school safety officer Shawn Thatcher. At the time of the drill, McLean was unaware that the scenario was staged. “McLean could not figure out what was going on,” stated the complaint. “She felt very confused. Her heart was racing. She walked out of the classroom and saw a pistol lying on the ground. … She wondered if she was really shot and was going to die.” Another “gunman”, school board member John Minarich, was dressed in similar attire and armed during the drill. The two reportedly visited classrooms, pointed their guns at teachers, fired, and announced they were dead.
“She could not shake the event but continued to relive it and try to make sense of it, but could not. Ms. McLean could not sleep, and remained anxious and vigilant. When she drifted off to sleep, she experienced nightmares and sweating,” the complaint claims.
The Oregonian reported in April 2013 that Pine Eagle Charter School superintendent Mike Corley defended the drill’s intent to “test teacher preparedness and come up with a plan for dealing with an actual shooting incident.” The teachers at the school had reportedly received previous training to deal with active shooter situations before the surprise drill.
The Oregonian reported that “members of the district’s Safety Committee notified the Baker County Sheriff’s Office and its 911 dispatch center in advance of the drill so that they wouldn’t respond to an emergency at the school in case any of the school staff called.”
The school tried to ensure that no teachers would return fire on Thatcher or Minarich by having the sheriff’s office review concealed-carry permits.
The suit stated that McLean went to Pine Eagle Charter School the following week but was unable to stay. McLean has been diagnosed by her psychologist and physicians with post-traumatic stress disorder. “On the advice of her treating psychologist, Ms. McLean tried to return to the school building as part of a desensitization therapy,” the suit says. “However, when she returned she was short of breath, anxious, emotionally distressed, and had to leave. She has not returned to the school building since.”
The lawsuit names as defendants Pine Eagle Charter School superintendent Mike Corley; principal Cammie DeCastro; Alpine Alarm Communications and Construction LLC, the company that constructed, installed and maintained the school’s security system; and seven members of the school board. School board member John Minarich, one of the “surprise gunmen”, is identified in court papers as the principal and president of Alpine Alarm.
McLean seeks “economic damages for her involuntary separation from employment, her medical and psychological treatment, and the loss of retirement contributions and fringe benefits,” as well as punitive damages and attorney fees. Alpine Alarm and school officials have not made public comment.