Active-shooter training has become a macabre ritual for educators in America’s public school system. “There’s a trauma that comes simply from being part of one of those drills,” Sen Chris Murphy (D-CT) told Rolling Stone recently.
But some trainers in Indiana have been amping up the realism, making the alarming decision to use non-lethal ammo in their demonstrations — shooting teachers in mock executions with pellet guns that allegedly left the educators with bloody welts.
The practice was revealed in series of tweets Wednesday by the the Indiana State Teachers Association. The group described training exercises in which “four teachers at a time were taken into a room, told to crouch down and were shot execution style with some sort of projectiles — resulting in injuries.”
The “terrified” teachers, ISTA added, were then instructed to not tell their colleagues what was in store for them. “Teachers waiting outside that heard the screaming were brought into the room four at a time and the shooting process was repeated.” ISTA insisted the practice was uncalled for: “No one in education takes these drills lightly. The risk of harming someone far outweighs whatever added realism one is trying to convey here.”
According to a report Thursday by the Indianapolis Star, the drill occurred in the small town of Monticello, as part of an ALICE training by the local sheriff’s department. The exercise is meant to impress on teachers that traditional duck-and-cover techniques are largely useless against mass shooters, and that teachers should lead students in more active countermeasures to defend themselves from attack.
But according to one educator, the trainers took the lessons too far. The trainers allegedly lined teachers up on their knees against a wall and told them: “This is what happens when you just cower and do nothing.” The source told the Star the educators were then shot multiple times in their backs, adding: “It hurt so bad.”
The sheriff of White County, Bill Brooks, told the newspaper that the teachers were shot using an airsoft gun, using plastic pellets that are roughly the same size as BBs. “It’s a soft, round projectile,” Brooks told the Star. “The key here is ‘soft.'” The department has reportedly suspended the practice. (Brooks did not return a phone call from Rolling Stone.)
ISTA’s director of government affairs testified before state legislators Wednesday that the state should intervene to “prohibit the shooting of some type of projectile at staff in an active shooter drill.”
A spokesperson for the association tells Rolling Stone it’s time to put some guardrails on these trainings, bringing them in line with regulations for fire and tornado drills. Educators are hopeful legislation to protect teachers could be introduced within the week.