Vermont police apologize for mock shooting that sent rattled high schoolers hiding under tables and texting goodbyes | CNN (2024)

Vermont police apologize for mock shooting that sent rattled high schoolers hiding under tables and texting goodbyes | CNN (1)

The Burlington Police Department has apologized to high school students after a mock robbery demonstration.


Police in Burlington, Vermont, have apologized to high school students who were rattled by a role-play robbery demonstration and mock shootingthey say sent them diving tothe floor to hideunder tables andtexting‘goodbye’ and ‘I love you’ to their loved ones.

About 20 students from a Burlington High School Year End Studies (YES) forensics class went to the police station for a field trip Wednesday where school officials were aware a crime reenactment would occur, school district spokesperson Russ Elek said in a statement to theVTDigger.

However, school officials “didn’t realize the presentation would happen without warning,” Elek said.

During the visit, three BurlingtonPolice Department personnel simulated a robbery scenario that was not directed at students or faculty, the department said in a release.

Police said they had communicated with school staff last month about the details of the demonstration, “including saying that the training incident would involve ‘using fake firearms in a mock shooting.’” It’s unclear whether teachers were told the simulation would occur without warning.

One 15-year-old in the class said studentswere listening to a presentation when he suddenly heard people enter the room screaming.

“There’s like three people fighting. The fake gun, that we didn’t know was fake at the time, got pulled out and shot what I think were blanks. They left shells. And it was still like loud,” the sophom*ore, who asked not to be named,told CNN. “Me and almost the whole class dove to the floor to hide under the tables because we didn’t know what was going on.”

CNN has reached out to the BurlingtonPolice Department about the weapon used inthe simulation.

The student said the person holding the gun was wearing a mask and they heard someone scream “get down.” He said that he was shaking, and that some kids were getting their phones out to text family members.

The email from school officialsto familiessaid,“While the gun was fake,the reenactment involved screaming and fakegun shotsounds.”

“If these are the people quote-unquote‘protecting’us, why did they make such a stupid decision without really thinking.… Especially with school shootings and stuff, we’re all already on edge,” the student said.

Police said they asked school staff whether the demonstration would be suitable for the student group, saying “It is about as real life as you can get, and is certainly exactly the sort of thing we deal with most frequently.”

“YES Program staff responded, ‘I think these students will be fine with this simulation. We will give a heads up to parents and students,’” according to the police release.

But in an email sent to families of the students after the incident, school officials wrote the simulation “was startling for many students and may have left some feeling confused and frightened as a result,” the VTDigger reported.

Burlington School District Superintendent Tom Flanagan and Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad released a joint statement apologizing to students Friday.

“It is clear to us that this week’s events resulted from a breakdown in communication between two groups trying to work together to create a meaningful experience for students,” the statement read, in part. “Both BSD and the BPD are committed to doing a better job of clearly laying out descriptions, expectations, and agendas and seeking clarification when working together in the future. Neither of us want any repeat of anything like this moving forward.”

Students ‘literally thought they were being shot at’

The sophom*ore student and his parent said they had no knowledge that there was going to be a shooting demonstration during the field trip. A grandparent who is guardian to one of the students likewise saidthe school did not inform them of theplannedmock shooting. CNN has been unable to independently confirm what parents and students were told before the trip.

“If I had known that was going to happen, I would’ve never put him through that,”said the grandparent, who has asked to remain anonymous to protectthe grandchild’sprivacy.

The grandparent said the students “literally thought they were being shot at,” adding that theirgrandchild didn’t know what to do or how to react.

The grandparent told CNN theirchild “froze up” during the demonstration.

“Other kids were diving on the floor, trying to get under furniture, whatever they could do to get out of the situation,” the grandparent said the student told them.

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TheBurlingtonPolice Department said it “apologizes to any students in attendance who were upset by the specific scenario and crime scene portion of the presentation.”

A representative for Burlington Mayor Emma Mulvaney-Stanak also told CNN that parents and students were upset following the demonstration.

Mayor Mulvaney-Stanak said in a statement to CNN that she apologizes “for the harm and distress this incident causedBurlingtonHigh School students – students who have tragically grown up in a society where gun violence, including in school settings, has become commonplace.”

The mayor said she hopes the school district and police department “will take responsibility for the harm caused and be self-reflective about all the ways this should have been handled differently and will not be repeated in the future.”

School officials hosted a “restorative circle” on Friday for studentsand teachersto share their thoughts about the incident, according toanemail sent to parents and students.

The 15-year-old student told CNN that teachers and police officers were present, but that he felt like police “weren’t directly holding themselves accountable.”

CNN’s Elizabeth Wolfe contributed to this report.

Vermont police apologize for mock shooting that sent rattled high schoolers hiding under tables and texting goodbyes | CNN (2024)


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