Indiana Teachers Say Cops Shot Them with Airsoft Bullets During Active Shooter Training

How does shooting teachers with pellet guns make anyone safer?


Teachers at Meadowlawn Elementary School in Monticello, Indiana, allege they were pelted with airsoft gun bullets by police during an active shooter drill in January.

Gail Zeharalis, a representative for the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA), testified about the incident at an Indiana Senate hearing Wednesday, RTV6 reported. "During active shooter drill, four teachers at a time were taken into a room, told to crouch down and were shot execution style with some sort of projectiles—resulting in injuries to the extent that welts appeared, and blood was drawn," the teacher's union wrote on Twitter:

Two anonymous teachers confirmed what happened to the Indianapolis Star. "They told us, 'This is what happens if you just cower and do nothing," one of the teachers said. "They shot all of us across our backs. I was hit four times."

Ronen Tivony/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/Newscom

The incident took place as part an active shooter training program called ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate). It's a nationwide program, though it usually does not involve shooting teachers with pellet guns. County Sheriff Bill Brooks' office oversaw the training, though he couldn't go into specifics because he only took office that month and said he was not there when the airsoft guns were used.

Still, Brooks offered a confusing defense of the practice to the Star. While seemingly refusing to confirm that teachers were shot at all, he also said the teachers "all knew they could be" because "it's a shooting exercise."

"It's a soft, round projectile," he told Star of the plastic pellets used in the airsoft guns. "The key here is 'soft.'" The practice ended, he added, after a teacher complained.

The ISTA went public with the allegations as part of an effort to amend a proposed school safety bill to clarify that teachers shouldn't be shot. It seems like a pretty reasonable demand. After all, it's hard to understand how shooting teachers with pellet guns makes anyone safer.

Incidents like these highlight the oftentimes needless and extreme measures taken during active shooter drills. In 2014, Lenore Skenazy wrote for Reason about armed police who swarmed into a middle school in Florida without warning teachers or students that it was a drill:

The fear that teachers might suffer heart attacks, that kids might experience psychotic breakdowns, that someone with his own weapon might shoot real bullets in defense—none of that seemed to occur to our peacekeepers. Nor did the notion that distraught parents might race frantically to the school, endangering anyone in their path.

As Reason's Jesse Walker has argued, these sorts of overly realistic simulations don't prepare students and teachers for disasters as much as they pointlessly reenact past tragedies. They're also not terribly effective, as Erika Christakis has written in The Atlantic.

The truth is, schools are actually relatively safe. School shootings are tragic, but thankfully, very rare. In fact, some research suggests schools might even be safer now than they were in the 1990s, as Robby Soave has pointed out.

With that in mind, it's very hard to defend the kind of institutionalized self-harm that Indiana teachers say they were subjected to.