Two Madison schools held an active shooter drill and students and staff didn’t know it was a drill

Negassi Tesfamichael:

Principals at O’Keeffe Middle and Marquette Elementary schools are facing criticism after a Code Red drill — a procedure designed to help students and staff prepare for threats such as a school shooting — was not conducted in accordance with Madison School District guidelines.

At both O’Keeffe and Marquette, teachers and students did not know a drill was taking place when it happened on Oct. 17, according to Liz Merfeld, the district’s communications coordinator.

Unannounced drills are counter to guidelines that say participants should be notified of a drill before it begins. As a result, some students and teachers thought it was an active threat situation.

Jodi Vander Molen, whose daughter is a third-grade student at Marquette, penned a letter to the principals of both schools, the School Board and Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham criticizing the drill. It was signed by 26 parents and community members.

“Creating a false sense of trauma in staff and students for the sake of ‘making it seem real’ or in order to have people ‘take it seriously’ is wholly counterproductive and extremely irresponsible from a basic trauma-informed perspective,” the letter stated.