An active shooter drill conducted Sept. 13 at Bethel Park High School included the sounds of gunshots reverberating through the building.
Bethel Park School District police Officer Tim Kirsch fired blank ammunition from his handgun three times in close succession to start the drill. A secretary then announced on the intercom that shots were fired in the rotunda area. Teachers and students then had to decide the safest course of action, barricading the classroom or fleeing the building.
The drill lasted about 15 minutes. After which, students returned to their third period classes.
Students, teachers and parents were informed of the drill earlier in the week. And just prior to the shots being fired, an announcement was made that the drill would begin. In the days leading up to the drill, teachers instructed students about what to expect and a letter was sent to all parents. Some parents voiced concerns on social media over possibly traumatizing students.
However, school district spokeswoman Vicki Flotta said in a statement that the district used gun shots so that students would become more familiar with the sound.
The rotunda was empty of students at the time the shots were fired and the police officer did not point the gun at anyone and instead fired it into the air.
The drill was part of the district’s ALICE training, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. The district conducts ALICE drills in all the schools throughout the year so that students and staff members understand what they need to do in the event of an actual shooter situation.
“The drills and activities that are conducted with students are age and grade level appropriate, in accordance with the ALICE training recommendations. We would not conduct this particular drill at the elementary or middle school level,” Flotta said.
Staff members underwent a similar drill prior to the start of school where blanks were also fired.