Principal Under Fire for Finger Gun Incident in Drill

( – A disturbing incident unfolded on February 7 at a San Gabriel, California, elementary school when the principal conducted an unauthorized active shooter drill. Washington Elementary School Principal Nina Denson was placed on administrative leave after she bizarrely roamed around campus pretending to be a school shooter. Teachers at the school reportedly made administrators aware of the incident shortly after it began. According to parent Jennifer Chavez, Denson was using her fingers to pretend to shoot people, while also banging on classroom windows. Chavez said that she heard that Denson told one of the students, “Boom! You’re dead!”

According to other employees of the school, Denson announced that the shooter killed seven students. Chavez said that her first-grader son was very upset over the drill and happy that his friends were not killed. Students as young as four years old witnessed Denson’s actions, leaving parents angered and calling for her firing. The District Superintendent Jim Symonds said that Denson did not have the authorization to conduct the drill. He also made clear that the scenario-type drill was not part of the district’s normal protocol when conducting active shooter drills. Parents received an email from the district that noted the drill did not align with “District protocols or best practices.”

The District said that it was investigating the incident and appointed an interim principal. School officials also said that counseling was available for students and staff who were traumatized by Denson’s actions. Active shooter drills at schools are often similar to other emergency drills, and teachers will advise students on what to do if the situation ever occurs. The type of roleplay drill that Denson was conducting is more in line with teacher-only active shooter training that occurs during non-school days with local law enforcement. It is unclear why Denson decided to subject students to the drill, but she will not be able to return until the internal investigation is completed.

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