Masked, armed employee 'took it too far' in Wayne school lesson

Posted October 16, 2013 6:01 p.m. EDT
Updated October 16, 2013 6:39 p.m. EDT

— Wayne County Public Schools officials said Wednesday that a school employee went a bit too far by entering a middle-school classroom wearing a ski mask and brandishing a toy gun as part of a lesson.

A sixth-grade class at Eastern Wayne Middle School had a citizenship "enrichment lesson" Friday on being observant of surroundings, and someone was supposed to walk into six classrooms, grab something off a desk in each and leave, district spokesman Ken Derksen said. The students would then discuss what they saw and how to respond.

"In this particular case, the staff member took it a little too far," Derksen said. "I think this person just got a little too much into the part.”

The masked employee, whose name hasn't been released, carried a black toy pistol into the classroom during the lesson, and one sixth-grader told WRAL News that the toy gun looked real and that the employee pointed it around her classroom.

"There were some children who went home crying," said the girl, whose family didn't want her identified.

Derksen said many students recognized who was wearing the mask and laughed about it, but some parents weren't amused by the incident when school officials sent a letter home Monday about the incident.

"There’s probably a better way to do that," parent Tammy Strickland said. "The ski mask, I’d be scared if I’d seen that, imagine a 12- or 13-year-old child."

"I said 'Wow, think of how psychologically damaging that could have been for these students,'" parent Patricia Williams said, recalling her reaction when she read the letter.

But Joe Collins, an uncle of an Eastern Wayne Middle student, said lessons are better when they're more realistic.

"In my opinion, I think the realistic events – of course I have a military background – so the more realistic you can make it, the better it seems," Collins said.

Principal Cathy Fulcher referred all questions about the incident to district officials, although she said in her letter that the lesson "could have been done with more sensitivity."

Derksen said district officials are reviewing the incident, and the employee remains on the job. He wouldn't say whether any disciplinary action was taken.

"It just comes down to, in all the things that have happened in recent years, it was just really insensitive to students' concerns, and that’s where the issue lies," he said.