Oregon teacher sues school officials over PTSD caused by surprise ‘active shooter’ drill
An elementary school teacher in Halfway, Oregon filed a federal lawsuit against local school district officials saying she was traumatized by a surprise drill simulating a school shooting, the Portland Oregonian reported.
The suit stated that the “active shooter” drill — held four months after the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut — left 56-year-old Michelle McLean “extremely shaken, confused and mentally, physically and emotionally ill. She could not shake the event but continued to relive it and try to make sense of it, but could not. Ms. McLean could not sleep, and remained anxious and vigilant. When she drifted off to sleep, she experienced nightmares and sweating.”
According to the lawsuit, McLean and other staffers at Pine Eagle School District No. 61 were kept in the dark about the drill. But district officials did notify local law enforcement and emergency dispatchers, ensuring that they would not respond to any calls for help from the school.
Pine Eagle principal and school board member John Minarich and the district’s security officer, Shawn Thatcher, are accused of storming into several classrooms while carrying firearms loaded with blanks during the drill. The lawsuit stated that Thatcher entered McLean’s classroom clad in “a black hoodie and goggles,” pointed his weapon at her head and pulled the trigger.
The man identified as Thatcher then told her, “you’re dead,” before exiting the classroom. According to the complaint, she wondered if she had really been shot.
“McLean could not figure out what was going on,” the suit stated. “She felt very confused. Her heart was racing. She walked out of the classroom and saw a pistol lying on the ground.”
Minarich is also identified in the lawsuit as one of the owners of Alpine Alarm, which installed the school’s security system. His company is also listed as a defendant in the suit, along with two school administrators and seven members of the Pine Eagle school board.
The suit stated that a psychologist diagnosed McLean with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after she tried to return to work on the Monday following the drill.
“On the advice of her treating psychologist, Ms. McLean tried to return to the school building as part of a desensitization therapy,” the complaint said. “However, when she returned she was short of breath, anxious, emotionally distressed, and had to leave. She has not returned to the school building since.”
McLean is seeking compensation covering not only her medical and psychological treatment, the suit stated, but “involuntary separation from employment” that left her unable to collect on retirement contributions.