It was billed as a drill.
But law enforcement officials at an Indiana elementary school reportedly ordered teachers to turn around and crouch and then shot them with plastic pellets, leaving the educators bruised and bloodied during an active-shooter training drill.
Details about the January incident emerged during a Wednesday hearing before state lawmakers on proposed legislation outlining how schools could spend grants from the Indiana safe-schools fund. The measure would require schools to have active-shooter training.
Gail Zeheralis, director of government relations for the Indiana State Teachers Association, testified about a small school district between Indianapolis and Chicago that appeared to take its active-shooter training drill too far.
Sheriff’s deputies directed teachers at a Twin Lakes School Corporation elementary school in Monticello, Indiana, into a room four at a time, told them to crouch down and then shot them execution-style with pellets in rapid succession, according to Zeheralis’s testimony.
“They were injured to the extent that welts appeared and blood was drawn,” according to Zeheralis’s prepared testimony, which was shared with the Washington Post. “There was screaming.”
Zeheralis said teachers waiting outside the room heard their co-workers screaming, and then were brought into the room and shot with the pellets. She said the teachers were told not to relay what happened to anyone.
The teachers union, which supports the safe-schools grants, called for an amendment prohibiting drills that include shooting at teachers.
“We believe adding a sentence prohibiting the firing of any projectile during these drills is a sufficient and necessary guideline going forward,” Zeheralis’s testimony read. “No one in education takes these drills lightly. The risk of harming someone far outweighs whatever added realism may be sought.”
Twin Lakes School Corporation offered few details but said in a statement the drill was conducted in partnership with the White County Sheriff’s Department. The sheriff’s department provided the school staff with ALICE training, which stands for “Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate.”
Twin Lakes School Corporation said it received questions about the training from the local teachers union and arranged a meeting between educators and law enforcement to discuss the incident.
“Twin Lakes looks forward to continuing its important partnerships with the Twin Lakes Classroom Teachers Organization and the White County Sheriff’s Department in pursuing a safe environment for all students and employees,” the statement read.
The Sheriff’s Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The department told the Indianapolis Star it had conducted similar training before but that after receiving a complaint, it would no longer use air-powered devices to shoot teachers.
Dan Holub, executive director of the Indiana State Teachers Association, said the proposed legislation and the publicity from the training incident has generated productive conversations about how Indiana can prepare and prevent emergency situations that schools might face.
“It’s important that we understand what’s happening in our schools,” Holub said. “This is a case with extraordinarily poor judgment, and the community has a right to know about it.”
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