PA school district responds after being questioned about using Arab-like costume during active shooter drill

PA school district responds after being questioned about using Arab-like costume during active shooter drill
Images provided by Penn-Trafford School District

WESTMORELAND COUNTY, Pa. (WOIO) - A Pennsylvania school district released a statement on Wednesday after video surfaced showing a participant in an active shooter drill wearing a costume that appeared to include a Middle Eastern headdress.

Officials from the Penn-Trafford School District stated that “there was no intent to represent any particular culture or religion” during the active shooter exercise conducted on Jan. 21, 2019.

The school district partnered with area law enforcement and contracted an active shooter consulting company to take part in the drill.

“As a part of the drill, two teacher volunteers with experience handling firearms, were tasked with the role as active shooters. These volunteers were provided costumes and accessories by the consultant group to alter their appearance so that they were not readily recognizable by their co-workers,” according to a statement posted to the school district’s website.

The costume in question included an individual wearing a blonde wig, tactical mask, and a scarf tied around his head like a kaffiyeh, similar to Arab or Muslim custom.

The school’s audio and visual department posted a video of the exercise that was not meant to be seen to the public on Youtube without permission, according to district officials. That is when the community questioned the intent of the safety exercise.

"On January 21, 2019 on a scheduled in-service day for staff, the Penn-Trafford School District conducted an active shooter drill. The drill’s purpose was to practice the District’s emergency response procedures and to build confidence in the staff members’ awareness of how to respond to an emergency. It is essential for schools to prepare for emergencies well in advance and to practice skills they may need to initiate in an active shooter situation. The District partnered with its local police departments and an active shooter drill consultant to conduct the simulation. As a part of the drill, two teacher volunteers with experience handling firearms, were tasked with the role as active shooters. These volunteers were provided costumes and accessories by the consultant group to alter their appearance so that they were not readily recognizable by their co-workers. There was no intent to represent any particular culture or religion.

The District’s audio visual department students created a video of the drill to be used for future staff trainings. It was not the intent or purpose of the training video to be viewed by anyone other than PT staff as a training exercise. The PT students, proud of their work, posted the video on their YouTube channel and recently received recognition for their work.

This unofficial release of the video has caused some in the community to question the District’s actions in performing the drill. As indicated above, the active shooter drill conducted at PT did not intend to represent any particular culture or religion as the shooters. Screen captures of the video shared on social media fail to show the full costume worn by the volunteer. The individual wore a long blonde wig with a scarf tied around his head and a paintball/tactical mask over his face. He was dressed in a dark zip-up sweatshirt and dark pants. There was no intent by the District, police department or consultant as part of the training to provide an identity to the volunteers as anything other than an active shooter. Please reference the provided images.

PT prides itself on instilling respect for others, in its students and staff and has conducted numerous trainings on cultural diversity. The District strongly believes in diversity and inclusion and strives to provide its students an educational environment reflective of the world community. PT students are empowered to be their authentic selves and value others."

Social media users are reacting on Twitter to the school’s drill.

Penn-Trafford School District is located southeast of Pittsburgh.

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