Vermont Cops Terrorize High School Students With 'Mock Shooting'

"I'm shaking and crying because I'm like, 'Oh my god, I'm gonna get shot,'" one student told a Vermont newspaper. "It felt so real."


A group of Burlington, Vermont, high school students were touring a local police department as part of a forensics class this week. In the middle of a presentation from a detective, the unthinkable happened: a masked gunman burst into the room and seemed to open fire.

The students were terrified. One says she dove on the ground, hurting her knee. Another says she reached for her phone to text her mother.

But soon, the students realized that they weren't actually being shot at. Instead, they were the victims of a bizarre "demonstration" from the local police.

According to Seven Days, a Vermont independent newspaper, the students had no idea that the presentation would involve a mock shooting. Students were watching a detective speak at the front of a room when they heard screams. Two women ran in, followed by a man wearing a ski mask, who—it seemed—began firing.

"I'm shaking and crying because I'm like, 'Oh my god, I'm gonna get shot,'" one student told Seven Days. "It felt so real."

The students eventually realized that the shooting was fake after police officers in the room failed to do anything to stop the apparent gunman.

While performing a fake mass shooting with high schoolers was obviously a terrible idea, it's unclear whether high school staff also share some blame for needlessly terrifying the students. 

The teachers told Seven Days that, while they knew officers would possibly demonstrate a "gunshot-related crime," they had no idea they wouldn't be warned first. However, in an email obtained by Seven Days, "teachers said officers told them that they'd previously used the lesson with college students and adults, and that they wanted the event to be 'as realistic as possible.'"

In a statement, police claimed that school staff had agreed to the content of the demonstration and that it would include "fake firearms in a mock shooting." 

"Do you think that sort of incident would be ok for your group of students?" police asked school employees on May 23. "It is about as real life as you can get, and is certainly exactly the sort of thing we deal with most frequently."

"I think these students will be fine with this simulation," school employees replied, according to a statement from police. "We will give a heads up to parents and students."

No matter how you slice it, there's not much educational utility to having a fake gunman commit a "mock shooting" in a room full of unaware high school students. However, it's far from the first time that police have gone overboard with educational demonstrations like this. In 2019, police in Indiana shot elementary school teachers with airsoft guns during an active shooter training drill. Those teachers filed a lawsuit.