MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Staff members of a Murfreesboro elementary school staged a fake gunman attack during a school trip, telling them it was not a drill as children cried and hid under tables.
Parents of the sixth-grade students at Scales Elementary were outraged after learning about the prank that occurred Thursday night during a weeklong trip to a state park.
Assistant Principal Don Bartch, who was present, said the scenario was intended as a learning experience and only lasted five minutes.
"We got together and discussed what we would have done in a real situation," he said.
During the last night of the school trip to Fall Creek Falls, a state park about 130 miles southeast of Nashville, staff members convinced the 69 students that there was a gunman on the loose.
The students were told to lie on the floor or hide underneath tables and stay quiet. After the lights went out, about 20 kids started to cry, said 11-year-old Shay Naylor.
"I was like, 'Oh My God,' " Shay said Saturday. "At first I thought I was going to die. We flipped out. (A teacher) told us, 'We just got a call that there's been a random shooting.' I was freaked out. I thought it was serious."
A teacher, disguised in a hooded sweat shirt, even pulled on locked door and pretended to be suspicious subject.
"This was not a good experience," said Alisha Graves, whose son went on the trip. "Those kids were crying and they were terrified."
Some parents said they were upset by the staff's poor judgment in light of the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech that left 33 students and professors dead, including the gunman.
"The children were in that room in the dark, begging for their lives, because they thought there was someone with a gun after them," said Brandy Cole, whose son went on the trip.
Scales Elementary Principal Catherine Stephens held a meeting Saturday afternoon at the school after a handful of parents called to complain.
She said she was saddened by the situation and that the school was handling it. She declined to say whether the staff members involved would face disciplinary action.
"The circumstance that occurred involved poor judgment," Stephens said. "My hope is that we can learn from this, and in the end, it will have a positive result of growth for all of us."
Still Shay and her mother, Niki Morris, said they forgave the teachers for scaring the students.
"(It) went too far because it was too gruesome," Shay Naylor said. "You'd think a teacher wouldn't do it, but they did. But they're great teachers. If (the assistant principal) loses his job, I will break into tears. He's the best assistant principal I've ever had."