In the lawsuit, one of the educators alleged that active shooter training conducted by the White County Sheriff’s Department’s (WCSD) was “one of the most terrifying experiences” that they have ever had to go through. They claim that they were shot at point-blank range with airsoft guns and were terrorized more than what is considered necessary for an active shooter drill.
The incident in question occurred in 2019. Many of the teachers at Meadowlawn received welts, bruises and abrasions after they were repeatedly shot at by the WCSD officers.
“I was hit four times,” said one teacher. “It hurt so bad.” According to the current lawsuit, these teachers were also subjected to “verbal threats, expletives and screaming.” Many of the officers laughed and joked about their pain as they were screaming in anguish.
After receiving complaints from the teachers, represented by the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA), White County Sheriff Bill Brooks, who is among the officers named in the complaint, quickly announced that his department would no longer be using airsoft weapons to train teachers.
The educators at Meadowlawn were supposed to be receiving “ALICE” training – short for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate – an options-based approach that encourages both the teachers and their students to become proactive when it comes to responding to an active shooter. Under this approach, physically engaging the shooter, such as by rushing at him, becomes an option.
ALICE training, however, does not normally involve the use of pellet or airsoft guns. (Related: “Active shooter” drills are a form of police state terrorism against children … shock and awe to give kids PTSD.)
Many of the Meadowlawn teachers reported both physical and emotional injuries during the incident. One teacher had injuries that took weeks to heal. Another first-grade teacher was left with permanent scarring. Meanwhile, a fifth-grade teacher said that she is now experiencing a lot of fear and anxiety and it is affecting her ability to do her job.
Many other Meadowlawn educators have reported losing their faith and trust in the county’s law enforcement officers. Two other teachers have sought psychiatric help, one teacher was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has continued to take prescription medication for it. Two other educators said that they stopped teaching shortly after the incident and that their resignation was directly related to the trauma they experienced during the drill.
According to the lawsuit, at one point during the drill, the teachers were broken up into small groups and ordered to kneel and face the wall. While in this position, they were shot repeatedly in the back “execution style” by the sheriff’s deputies, who were playing the role of school shooters.
“This is what happens when you cower and do nothing,” on deputy allegedly said.
After the exercise, the teachers were then told not to tell the other teachers, who were waiting in another room for their turn, what had happened to them.
“For each Plaintiff, the ‘Execution Style Drill’ was one of the most terrifying experiences of their life,” read the lawsuit. “Immobilized by fear and the physical force of the bullets pinning them down, participants could not turn around. Doing so would have exposed them to shots in the face and shots at even closer range.”
According to other statements from the teachers, the sheriff’s deputies that participated in the drill were relishing their roles. One deputy is even alleged to have yelled out threats like, “I'm going to kill you all!” while walking down the hallways.
The teachers were also shot during other drills, in which they were instructed to hide in classrooms, to barricade doors and to throw tennis balls at the officers in self-defense.
Eight of the 35 Meadowlawn teachers who participated in the training are joining the lawsuit which was filed last week in the U.S. District Court in Lafayette. Along with Sheriff Brooks, the other defendants are White County, the sheriff’s department and four sheriff’s deputies that participated in the drill.
The defendants are being charged with using excessive force, committing assault and battery, intentionally inflicting emotional distress and subjecting the Meadowlawn teachers to unreasonable seizure and false imprisonment. The plaintiffs are demanding compensatory and punitive damages.
ISTA, which represents the teachers, said that it wants to prevent teachers from enduring similar experiences in the future.
“We do not believe that a school or trainer should conduct any kind of active shooter training drill that includes the firing of any type of projectile at an employee or a student,” said Keith Gambill, president of the ISTA.
Gambill, as president of the ISTA, is lobbying the Indiana state legislature to pass a bill that will prohibit teachers in the state from being shot with any kind of ammunition during active shooter drills.
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