What to Know
- In a required teacher training, teachers say they were shown horrific video of what they believed was the Columbine massacre.
- The school principal sent a letter apologizing if he offended anyone but said he felt it was important to show.
- Prince George's County Public Schools defended the screening of the video and said they may show it in all schools.
Teachers at a high school in Maryland were required to attend a lockdown training presentation where they were shown a graphic video of what they said appeared to be students being shot in the Columbine High School massacre.
The principal of Laurel High School showed raw security video and played frantic 911 calls during a mandatory teacher training on Friday, upset teachers said and the school district confirmed.
A number of teachers told News4 they felt blindsided by the screening of the horrific video.
"There were faculty members that got up and left in the middle of the video showing because they were crying. It was so, so upsetting," one teacher, who asked to speak on condition on anonymity, said.
Teachers said the surveillance video showed part of the 1999 high school shooting in Colorado, in which two students killed 12 fellow students and one teacher before turning their guns on themselves and dying by suicide.
"The assailants were taunting the kids to get the kids to get up and run, and when the kids ran away, the assailants were shooting them," the teacher said the video showed.
The teachers said they did not know they would be shown the video, which the school's security team created.
"If you're going to do this and you want to do this properly, you say, 'We are going to show you this. If you do not feel comfortable with this, you are welcome to leave,'" a teacher said.
The teachers spoke on condition of anonymity in order to protect their jobs.
The principal sent a letter apologizing if he offended anyone but said he felt it was important to make the realities of school shootings clear.
"The goal was to hopefully get everyone in the mindset that situations like Columbine and other school shootings are prevalent and relevant in our society today and that the safety of all should be the number one goal for all of us," he wrote.
The teachers were shown the video less than a month after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and amid a highly charged national conversation about arming teachers.
Prince George's County Public Schools spokesman John White said reactions to the presentation were mixed and the district was considering showing it to staff at other schools.
"Some people were upset. Some people said, 'Wow. This could really happen, and we need to be prepared,'" White said.
"Our instructional director did think that it might be good to show in all of our schools, because it is a real scenario that happens," White continued. "Fortunately not in our school district, but it happened in this nation, and we need to be prepared for it."
One teacher who was shown the video agreed it's important for teachers to be ready for shootings, but said that wasn't the right way to go about it.
"In a situation that we are called to defend our students from a shooter, we absolutely will, and we have training on how to do this," the teacher said. "But showing us the nightmare is not an effective method."
Here's the letter school Principal Dwayne Jones sent teachers:
Good Morning Laurel Family,
I just wanted to again apologize to anyone who felt unnerved, distraught, disturbed or bothered by some of the Lock Down presentation held on Friday, [March] 9. It was not our aim to upset or intimidate anyone, especially with the graphic video from the Columbine High School mass shooting. However, the goal was to hopefully get everyone in the mindset that situations like Columbine and other school shootings are prevalent and relevant in our society today and that the safety of all should be the number one goal for all of us.
It is my expectation that we talk with our students in each and every class about safety and for us all to take each and every drill as if it is the real thing. No one can tell me how they are going to react under an extreme emergency/situation, but I believe that by talking about safety and following policy and procedures we will be in a better position to deal with such events if forbid they ever occur at Laurel High School.
Thanks to Sgt. Toppiins for her work in putting together the presentation and Officer Demin for his contributions to our discussion.
If you have questions, concerns or suggestions regarding safety in our building please see Sgt. Toppins or myself.
Principal Laurel High School
"Where Student Excellence is our Expectation and Standard"