Fake Gunman Enters School — But Kids Don’t Know He’s an “Enrichment” Exercise

Readers — You’re not going to believe this indarhdnss
. Sounds like just one overzealous employee was involved. But the Free-Range point? Kids are NOT in constant danger, so can we please stop dreaming up ever more dramatic ways to “protect” them as if they were?


33 Responses to Fake Gunman Enters School — But Kids Don’t Know He’s an “Enrichment” Exercise

  1. Bose in St. Peter MN October 16, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    So much for the school’s zero tolerance policy.

  2. Michelle H October 16, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    I’m seriously waiting for one of these stories where the “robber” gets beat up by a parent/teacher who decides not to sit around, or gets shot by someone with a concealed weapon.

  3. Eileen October 16, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    The school official said it was “appropriate” in the original intent. I’d love to hear what the original plan was – because it sounds ridiculous in any form.

  4. Anna October 16, 2013 at 11:57 am #

    So if a kid goes to school with a gun keychain…zero tolerance.
    …but THEY can simulate an armed robbery. That makes sense…

    Oh, the “teach kids to be aware of their surroundings” part is so fun!! Kids are already aware…too much! They need to learn how to be confident.
    Their motto says “Carver Elementary – Opening Minds”. It doesn’t seem to me they are opening…just closing!

  5. Steve S October 16, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    This happened in a district in our state last year. I wondered the same thing as Michelle. What if a concerned citizen, CPL holder, or off duty cop had intervened? I just don’t see the benefit of having some type of drill/training exercise like this? Statistically speaking, kids are more likely to die playing high school sports than they are at the hands of some deranged shooter.

  6. Maggie October 16, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    GAH! Are they nuts?

    No need to answer that question.

  7. Donna October 16, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    This is an extremely common exercise that far pre-dates the school hysteria. I was probably in high school the first time I experienced it so it has existed for DECADES in various forms. It has absolutely nothing to do with training kids for an armed robbery. It is a lesson on human observation skills. We – lawyers – use it to show how god-awful eye witness identification truly is. Any time it is done, it is extremely enlightening to everyone in the room who, of course, are certain beforehand that they could easily identify someone who just robbed them at gunpoint since the various eye-witness descriptions are usually very varied and miles away from the actual person.

    Everyone needs to see this experiment live at least once (preferably before you ever sit on a jury). The only negative thing about this story is that kids are so sensitive now that they are upset over it and the school feels that it needs to apologize for a legitimate learning exercise.

  8. Eileen October 16, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    @Donna, I’ve been part of a similar exercise as well, but it was in college and it wasn’t designed to include a violent situation. IIRC, it was someone who came into the lecture hall, gave the professor something, and then left. Then the prof told us it was an setup and we were told to discuss what we noticed/observed and how our recollections differed.

    There is NO reason this needs to be framed as a theft (violent or otherwise) to expose middle schoolers to the same sort of experiment.

  9. Donna October 16, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    Eileen – The ones I’ve seen, including those when I was young, have ALWAYS included a crime. The use of a gun has varied but it has always involved some criminal activity – a punch, a theft. The reasoning being, you are not going to expect to need to remember someone coming in to give something to a teacher. That is a complete non-event. You expect to be able to remember the details of a crime occurring in your presence.

  10. Steve S October 16, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    Donna, I have seen similar things done as part of a study or a demonstration. This seems to be part of an exercise designed to teach something or prove a point. That being said, there are ethical standards that would prevent children from being part of this as they did not consent if this was being done as research. Regardless, I still question the utility of this lesson.

  11. Warren October 16, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    There are much better ways to demonstrate observation skills, than a fake armed robbery. This ranks up there with that school bus hijacking drill, a little while ago.

    In this scenario the fake robber was at risk. Anyone not in the know could have very easily attacked him. Reckless, useless and absolutely unnecessary. More school admins. that need to be held accountable for stupidity.

  12. Donna October 16, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    Eric – Nobody is ever asked to consent to this exercise. The entire point of the exercise is completely defeated if you consent as you would know beforehand that a fake crime is coming. I may have been as young middle school when I first experienced it. Or young high school. Nobody freaked out. Nobody was traumatized. Nobody reacted poorly. We all enjoyed it.

  13. Donna October 16, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    I find it extremely interesting that people here are constantly complaining that society is too sensitive and overeactive to guns. Now there is a legitimate exercise that has been done in schools for decades and all those same people are freaking out because it involves a gun. I’m confused free rangers, are we supposed to freak out about guns or not?

  14. Warren October 16, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    This has nothing to do with an overly sensitive population. This has everything to do with using the most extreme way of running a drill, that could have ended horribly.

    And no, I don’t want my daughter coming home and telling me that they ran a drill, that had someone with a gun, toy or not, scared the crap out of her. To prove some point about observation.

    Anyone thinking this is acceptable for kids that age is a class A moron.

    You love your guns so much………well this what a gun toting society does.

  15. Donna October 16, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    It is not the most extreme way of running a drill. It is the way that the drill has always been run. I’ve seen it with a knife instead of a gun too. Once they did it with a fight instead of a theft, but I believe that even that involved a knife if I remember correctly. The weapon is actually fairly integral to the lesson as you would think that it would definitely be something that you would observe but a substantial number of the audience will say no weapon was present and another portion will identify the wrong weapon (say a knife instead of a gun or vice versa).

    Considering that this exercise was run with a gun when I was just slightly older than these kids and nobody had the crap scared out of them, I’d say that kids today are reacting differently than kids in earlier generations. Why? Because of the idiocy surrounding guns.

    By the way, they don’t actually point the gun at anyone (or aren’t supposed to). The “thief” simply has it in his hand when he comes in and grabs the item.

  16. Donna October 16, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    How was the drill ever going to end horribly? That definitely seems like some worst-first thinking to me. The gun was fake so the man was not going to be disarmed and shot with his own gun. It is extremely unlikely that the “thief” paraded down the halls of the school in his ski mask and gun for anyone not involved to see – the staff member likely put on the ski mask and brought out the gun right before walking into the classroom. The adults involved were in the know. It sounds like the administration was in the know. Unless some 6th grader in this class packs a concealed weapon, I don’t see the potential to end horribly here except in some posters imagination.

  17. Snow October 16, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    Donna, the parents might not have known. I have been in my son’s school when they’ve had fire/tornado/lockdown drills, and I hadn’t had any prior knowledge that those drills were going to occur. Had this drill occurred at my son’s school I might have jumped the person pretending to be the bad guy and beaten the crap out of him. It could very well have turned out horribly for the person pretending to be the bad guy.

  18. derpdedoo October 16, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Schools are prisons. The inmates are our children, their crime is being born less than 17 years ago. Zero tolerance applies only to the prisoners and not to the warden, guards, or other staff. The guards are free to use whatever tools they feel necessary to instill “values,” “education,” and “socialization” into the minds and behavior of the inmates. These tools unfortunately include terrorizing the inmates because these adults running the show are power-tripping disgusting human beings who have unlimited power by virtue of the rights we afford them “in loco parentis.”

  19. Warren October 16, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    I put myself in the hallway. I see a masked man with a gun. I react. I don’t run, not in my nature. Now remember the gun is a toy, so this person has noway to defend themselves. Fake robber ends up in hospital, severely injured. And with the way your cops overreact, I probably end up in jail.

    I am not the only dad out there that would jump the guy.

    Kid with cellphone dials 911 and reports a masked gunman in the school………..

    Sub teacher does the same………..

    Get your head out of your asses. This is not the way to run a drill. Drills are supposed to be run in a controlled manner as a way of practicing responses. This is not a drill. It is an experiment to provoke responses. Two completely different animals.

    Run something like that in my kids school, and we would be going after the jobs of those responsible, or should I say irresponsible. Wonder how much gov`t funding they got for this. If this is the way those in power think and function, it is no wonder your gov`t shut down.

  20. Donna October 16, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    Snow – This is literally a 30 second long exercise. The guy runs into the classroom, grabs an item, runs back out. Unless the the thief, who was a staff member not a kid, is playing with the gun in the hallway while he waits to enter the room (he generally comes back in after awhile) nobody else in the school is ever going to see it. I suppose there is always the odd chance that a parent will be passing that particular classroom during that particular 30 seconds and react (although if parents are carrying loaded guns into schools to volunteer THAT is something to complain about) but seems about as likely as my daughter being kidnapped on her way home from her friend’s tonight.

  21. Eileen October 16, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    Well I agree with Warren!

    I still contend that the point of observation and retelling can be made WITHOUT putting any sort of fear in the minds of the audience. Theses kids aren’t in training to become witnesses, they are just being exposed to how our brains work.

    @Donna, the free range idea is not that one should NEVER be fearful, it’s the idea that you shouldn’t have to be fearful in safe places (like schools). If someone armed robs your office, classroom, home, it’s completely natural and correct to experience fear.

  22. Donna October 16, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    Warren -This isn’t a drill. It isn’t meant to teach you how to react to a situation. It is to demonstrate the frailty of our powers of observation, even things that we are certain about are often wrong. That is it.

    I question running the demonstration with kids this age, not because they are too fragile, but because I’m not sure that they get what this lesson is supposed to teach about observation.

  23. Donna October 16, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    Eileen – The point is to grab their attention. Think about your experiment and 6th grade (or really anyone). Some of the kids aren’t paying enough attention to register that a stranger walked into the classroom. The vast majority zone out the second someone comes in and lesson stops. A couple nosey parkers may continue to watch what is happening, but the rest will begin to play or fidget or zone because their attention is no longer needed. At the end of the demonstration, nobody puts much energy into remembering what they saw because it was meaningless to them. They take absolutely nothing away from it whatsoever as they still believe that they can be 100% observant when they are interested.

  24. Eileen October 16, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    @Donna – that was Warren’s point. It wasn’t a drill. The kids were the subjects (however briefly) to an experiment that included a someone with a gun. Free Range or Helicopter’d kid, they will be afraid: a person in my school has a gun.

    I think middle school kids are old enough to have a discussion about recollection and details and observations, but they should not be subjected to the experience of being robbed by an armed intruder to start the discussion.

  25. Eileen October 16, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

    @Donna, if they can’t make the point or start the discussion without using an armed intruder, then they should just leave that out of the lesson plan.

    I don’t believe anyone has the right to subject minors to that kind of fear for any purpose.

    Do I think the gun/mask would make the kids pay attention? Yes, but it is not the school’s right to scare my kid….literally put them in fear for their own safety. No way. It doesn’t matter if that wasn’t “the point”….it’s the direct byproduct of this thing….and if they didn’t consider that, shame on them.

  26. Donna October 16, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    Eileen – It wasn’t meant to be a drill. Warren insists that it was a drill run incorrectly which makes no sense since it wasn’t designed to be a drill in any way, shape or form. He is basically pointing at a dog and complaining that it is an improper cat.

    I do like how all today’s kids are too fragile for this but kids in the past 25 years handled it just fine. Mentally you never get passed “holy crap did that just happen” before you are told it was fake. To hear you tell it and I’d expect that kids were being held at fake gunpoint for hours as opposed to 30 seconds in which someone runs in, grabs something and dashes out of the classroom. My 8 year old wouldn’t be scared by that.

  27. Kimberly October 16, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

    Yikes That was STUPID. 4 years ago a man robbed the store next door. He then was chased by the cops through the apartments onto our playground – full of 3rd graders. He disappeared around a corner where there was a door to the school. We went into lockdown because the police believed he had gotten inside. (Makes sense because of the set up of the building he would have been seen if he had run away from the building).

    My 4th graders were terrified. They knew it wasn’t a drill because of the timing (Middle of lunch – 2 days before the state test). They found him hiding on some AC equipment outside eventually.

    In our case the cops were excellent. Some of them stayed after the building was cleared. They gave the kids hugs, stickers, trading cards, and candy. Told the kids they did a great job being quiet, that the bad guy had been caught. The cops even ate with the kids.

    I’ve been teaching since 2001. I’ve been through 4 real shut downs.

    1. Man just outside my portable beating and threatening to kill a woman. (he was on the other side of the fence.) He was saying I should shoot you through the head.

    2. “parent” who had her rights terminated and was violating an RO came in the front door and was yelling and screaming.

    3. The armed gunman

    4. A parent assaulted a teacher and ran screaming through the building. (Child was sent home on the bus – which is what the paper work said. Mom had decided to pick the child up but did not send a note or call. Apparently we are supposed to be psychic.)

  28. Sky October 16, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    Donna, you say this is an exercise regularly practiced for the past 25 years. I never experienced this in elementary school or junior high or high school. I don’t personally know anyone else who has. Out of curiosity, how many others here experienced a fake armed robbery in school during school hours as an observation exercise? At any rate, given today’s climate, with the excess publicity surrounding recent school shootings, it certainly seems ill advised to have someone who seems to possess a gun walk into a classroom. There may indeed be violent reactions.

  29. Eileen October 17, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    @Donna. This is what Warren wrote:

    ” This is not a drill. It is an experiment to provoke responses. Two completely different animals. ”

    I’m agreeing with you that being afraid and having to recall details is different than noticing someone come in and remove something from your teachers desk. My point is that for 6th graders (11-12 year old kids), there is nothing that justifies subjecting them to think someone with a gun has entered a classroom. Nothing.

  30. Warren October 17, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    There is nothing you can argue that will make sense.

    No school has the right to use anyone’s child in an experiment. End of story.

    And you are the one that called this an exercise, which is splitting hairs on calling it a drill. And if you think this is so beneficial, would you recomend having a fake armed robbery being staged in the workplace?

    I would not. In alot of places the fake robber would be killed. The only reason they did it in a school, was the fact that they are kids, and pretty much defenseless. Hell, pull this stunt in some high schools and the fake robber is at risk.

  31. alwaysmoving October 17, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Methinks that Donna is protesting too much. Some connection with the school, or one of the persons responsible, perhaps?

    Personally, I think it further demonstrates why American children are slipping ever farther downward in world education rankings. How can anyone learn something useful when their school administrators are spending their time on this garbage instead of working out ways to get them to actually care about learning?

  32. mystic_eye_cda October 17, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    1) Someone proposed a decent lesson, which was approved
    2) The lesson was carried out, arguably the way it was executed showed poor judgement
    3) Parents voiced their objection, or perhaps the school sent home a letter apologizing first
    4) In hindsight the principal agrees recent events should have been taken into account.

    The real question is do we overreact (suspend, discipline, or fire the teacher or worse) or do we allow for human weakness, the fact that people make mistakes, and that an exercise that’s been done many times before should have been rethought a bit and carry on.

    Also, truly, were any of the kids upset or is this just another case of “I’m going to be offended on your behalf whether you are offended or not”

  33. Eileen October 17, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    fwiw, there is a news article from a different tv station that indicates some kids were crying.

    But I think the issue is that when children make a “mistake” like taking a key chain with a gun on it, they are faced with zero tolerance rules. Yet the school system chose to subject students to a scary and dangerous (if real, with no reason for the kids to know it wasn’t) situation.

    This was a big mistake. They deserve the criticism they are getting (and should be thankful they have rights available to them that students do not).