Parents and students have publicly criticized a high school in Florida for its handling of an active shooter drill that led to chaos, panic and confusion.
Students at Lake Brantley High School in the Orlando-area town of Altamonte Springs say that the unannounced drill on Thursday sparked disorder as people panicked over the potential of a real threat.
“It’s more than just protecting children from bullet holes,” parent Renee Storm told The Orlando Sentinel. “It’s protecting them from the anxiety and trauma they’re now experiencing.”
The day’s events started when the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office conducted an unannounced “code red” drill shortly after 10:00 a.m. Thursday morning.
Videos published online show students at Lake Brantley in a frenzied state inside the school’s cafeteria.
But Lake Brantley’s principal, Trent Daniel, had initially attributed some of the chaotic scenes captured in videos to incidents that occurred after the drill had been completed and the “code red” was lifted.
In a phone message to parents on Thursday evening, Daniel can be heard suggesting that the wave of panic in the school’s lunchroom was caused by a student’s social media post about an active shooter on campus, according to a video by local NBC affiliate WESH 2.
The social media post appears to be in reference to a screenshot shared online showing an automatic text message sent to teachers alerting them that an active shooter was reported on campus at 10:21 a.m.
“Active Shooter reported at Brantley / Building 1/ Building 2 and other buildings by B Shafer at 10:21:45. Initiate a Code Red Lockdown,” the message read, according to the Sentinel.
The message did not indicate that it was a drill, the Sentinel reported.
“There was a campus disruption caused by a social media post,” Daniel said, according to the WESH 2 audio. “The post indicated a possible threat to the campus.” She added that the social media post was being investigated as a “disciplinary matter.”
The Seminole County school district did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment Saturday.
But students had pointed to another incident that occurred during lunch hours later in the day that caused panic.
Michael Lawrence, a spokesman for the school district, told the Sentinel that some time after the drill, while students were in the cafeteria, an announcement was made over the school’s loudspeaker that the earlier drill had been executed successfully.
However the announcement included the words “code red,” which is likely all some students heard in the noisy cafeteria, Lawrence said.
Indeed, one student told WESH 2 in a video interview that he remembers hearing “code red” over the loudspeaker.
“It’s a code red, that’s all it said ― that’s all I heard,” he said.
The lunchtime announcement apparently sent some students frantically running out the doors.
Parents who received distraught text messages from their children at school have expressed disappointment on social media over the school’s response time in informing parents that the “code red” alert was just a drill.
Lawrence told the Sentinel that Lake Brantley’s statement to parents informing them that there was not an emergency went out at least 30 minutes later than it should have.
He added that moving forward parents will be informed about future drills promptly.
“There’s absolutely going to be changes,” he said.
Colleen Eskins, the mother of a student at Lake Brantley, told BuzzFeed News she’s concerned about lasting effects from how these drills are conducted at schools.
“I understand that unfortunately we have to practice these drills for the safety of the kids,” she said. “I am concerned about the psychological repercussions when ‘active shooter’ and ‘not a drill’ are communicated.”
“We do apologize to the families of how the incident and how all those events transpired yesterday, but we do want to assure them we’ve heard them loud and clear,” Lawrence told Orlando’s WKMG News 6 in a video interview on Friday.
Bob Kealing, a spokesman for the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed to HuffPost that the sheriff’s office had left campus after it had completed the “code red” drill, as it has “many times before” in the district.
Kealing referred HuffPost to Daniel’s statements for further comment.
On Friday, Daniel issued a statement to parents.
“I have spent the day debriefing with all parties involved in yesterday’s events and I want to assure you that I’m committed to taking action based on lessons learned from those debriefings,” the principal said, according to the Sentinel.