School and Police Officials in Vermont Apologize for Mock Shooting Drill

School and Police Officials in Vermont Apologize for Mock Shooting Drill

School and police officials in Burlington, Vt., apologized on Friday after high school students on a field trip to the Police Department were exposed to a staged armed robbery that included a mock shooting — a training exercise that upset some students.

The training, which occurred on Wednesday and, according to the police, had been approved by both school and police officials, was meant to have been a “realistic armed robbery demonstration,” according to statement released Friday by the police and the Burlington School District.

But officials acknowledged in their statement that the training, which Seven Days, an independent weekly newspaper in Vermont, said included a masked gunman bursting into a room and pretending to open fire, had been a mistake. “This week’s events resulted from a breakdown in communication between two groups trying to work together to create a meaningful experience for students,” the statement said.

The school district said it had offered counseling services to the students, and on Friday officials and students met for a “restorative circle” to “process and talk about the events of the day,” according to the statement.

The Burlington Police Department said in a statement on Thursday that it had been in contact with school officials beforehand about the details of the training exercise, including the fact that it would involve the use of fake firearms in a mock shooting.

In a communication with staff members at Burlington High School on May 23, the police asked: “Do you think that sort of incident would be ok for your group of students? It is about as real life as you can get, and is certainly exactly the sort of thing we deal with most frequently.”

According to the police, school officials responded: “I think these students will be fine with this simulation. We will give a heads up to parents and students.”

In their joint statement on Friday, police and school officials said that they were “truly sorry that this happened, and we are committed to improving our systems both internally and when working together to make sure it will not happen again.”

School and police officials “are committed to doing a better job of clearly laying out descriptions, expectations, and agendas and seeking clarification when working together in the future,” Tom Flanagan, the Burlington schools superintendent, and Jon Murad, the police chief, said in the statement. “Neither of us want any repeat of anything like this moving forward.”

Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, the mayor of Burlington, said in a statement on Friday that she also wanted to apologize “for the harm and distress this incident caused Burlington High School students — students who have tragically grown up in a society where gun violence, including in school settings, has become commonplace.”

She said she expected that the school district and the police “will take responsibility for the harm caused and be self-reflective about all the ways this should have been handled differently and will not be repeated in the future.”

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