Unannounced shooter drill causes panic at Palatka High School

Some parents said they received text messages from their children

By Erik Avanier - Reporter

PALATKA, Fla. - It was a planned active shooter drill on the campus of Palatka High School, but some students thought it was the real thing and began to panic.

The unannounced drill started with an intercom message alerting staff and students to a suspicious man on campus. The school went into lockdown and some parents said they began receiving text messages from their children.

School leaders said they chose not to announce the drill because they wanted it to be taken seriously, and they wanted to see authentic responses from students and staff. Some parents told News4Jax they don't agree with the school's decision.

Sidnee Kerns, a student at the high school, said she and her classmates rushed into another room in a separate building after hearing the intercom announcement.

"They said it was a man with a black hoodie and jeans," Sidnee said. "It was very real. People were banging on the door. Kids were crying, saying, 'Let me in.' They would not let them in. They had to go in the bathrooms and hide."

Sidnee said she and other students were texting their parents. Her mother, Stephanie, was at work.

"I was freaking out," Stephanie Kerns said. "I can appreciate them doing drills, but I know there are some kids who suffer from anxiety attacks or panic attacks or different issues."

Another student told News4Jax the drill caused her to have an anxiety attack. She said she noticed teachers panicking, as well.

Stephanie Kerns said she understood why the school kept the drill a secret.

"If they tell everyone it's a drill, are they really going to take it seriously?" she asked.

School leaders said only a few staff members were notified in advance of the drill. The school said the drill was handled well.

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