Winter Haven, FL- An unannounced active shooter drill that took place at a Winter Haven middle school Thursday led students and parents to believe there was a genuine threat in the school after two police officers entered classrooms at Jewett Middle Academy, one carrying an AR-15 and one carrying a Glock .45-caliber pistol.
Parents were upset that there was no prior notification of the drill; the school sent e-mails about the drill after it had already occurred. Several students sent text messages to their parents alerting them that there were armed officers moving through the school.
The pistol was loaded and carried by the school’s resource officer, who regularly carries the weapon loaded while on duty on the campus. Police noted that the AR-15 the other officer was carrying was not loaded.
“We actually thought that someone was going to come in there and kill us,” said Lauren Marionneaux, a seventh grade student at the school. Marionneaux’s mother, Stacy Ray, said “It’s very scary, especially from a parent’s perspective. You hear all this horrible stuff on the news and you think it might be happening at your child’s school.”
Another parent, Charise Tate, said that her husband rushed in his car to the school at speeds of up to 130 m.p.h. after he received a text message from their son.
One parent, Heidi Calvelage, said it was surprising that other parents were upset about the school’s concealment of the drills, and believed that students alerting their parents about the situation “shouldn’t be using their cells in class in the first place.”
Some school districts offer advance notifications to parents and students before a fire drill or lockdown drill, but others believe such drills will be taken more seriously if they are conducted without warning. “It’s very important that when you do your drill, you do it without everyone knowing that it’s a drill,” said Winter Haven Police Chief Charlie Bird. “It really is to protect the children and at no point in time would we endanger any of the children.”
According to ABC News, there have been two other lockdowns at the school that were not drills. One lockdown was prompted when someone reported hearing a gunshot, but that report was unsubstantiated. The other lockdown occurred after a “seemingly threatening” note was found in a trash can.
Winter Haven police stated that future drills will take place without officers carrying weapons.