Less than a week after the Sandy Hook shootings, Greer Phillips, a principal in East Harlem’s P.S. 79, the Horan School, decided to conduct an unscheduled, unannounced drill.
At 10 am on December 18, the Tuesday after the shooting, a woman’s voice came over the loudspeaker and announced that there was a “shooter” or “intruder” in the building and instructed the teachers to “get out, get out, lockdown.”
The school serves 300 students with special needs like autism, severe emotional disabilities, cerebral palsy and other disorders.
One teacher told the New York Times, “We really thought we were not going home that night. It was probably the worst feeling I ever had in my life.”
Another teacher, Santos Sabio, explained that after five minutes, she realized it was a drill, saying “It was a surprise, but it shouldn’t be a surprise.”
When police officers arrived on the scene, school officials told them it was just a drill.
The day after the drill, Marge Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the New York City Education Department, explained that they were looking into how the drill was conducted and Phillips, the principal, refused to speak to the press.
Now, people who’ve identified themselves as “Friends of Horan,” are petitioning Mayor Bloomberg, requesting that the administrative staff who ordered and implemented this drill be punished.
Planned in secrecy, without any warning or notice to any of the victims, desperate students and staff were traumatized and struggle today with the aftermath. Hundreds of stories have emerged of teachers holding doors down to save their students while calling loved ones to say good bye. Staff falling to the floor in prayer. And brave acts of protection and heroism. 300 fragile students, starting at the age of 12, who have worked all their lives to be strong and overcome emotional hardships were terrorized by this action, and most do not have the voice to respond! Or even to tell their parents!
Please sign to help bring justice to this school, and to not allow an administration of bullies to use the tragic events of Sandy Hook Elementary as an excuse to terrorize those they are charged to serve.
That pretty much sums it up. This type of drill would have been terrible for any school; but the fact that this was conducted at a special needs school, where the students have suffered serious emotional challenges, makes it that much worse. Using a tragedy to further incite fear on students and staff is cruel and it certainly raises questions about the capability of the current principal and administration to serve this school.