Americans paused to remember one of the most tragic and horrifying events — the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Two years ago, students at Kaimuki Middle School were watching a video about 9-11 when all of a sudden a masked man rushed into classrooms swinging a hammer.
It turned out to be just a drill.
Now the parents of one student are suing the Hawaii Department of Education, saying their child is still traumatized by what happened.
Kaimuki Middle School’s vice principal told us at the time, it was part of a lockdown drill that involved several classrooms and the man was a school staff member wearing a beanie and holding a hammer.
Some parents we spoke with at the time told us the school never told them about the drill and the children feared for their lives.
“She said she was sitting by the door and she was afraid. And she was crying, and another friend was crying as well and they thought they were going to die,” one parent said.
“It wasn’t clear that it was going to be okay, which led to more panic. Then maybe 10 minutes later, there was an announcement that it was a drill and the lockdown is over,” another parent explained.
In the lawsuit filed on behalf of the parents of one student they claim their child continues to “suffer from mental health concerns” including “post traumatic stress disorder.”
A Dr. Suzanne Gelb, a child psychologist we talked to at the time, told us “it can be very devastating, it can result in nightmares, it can be a result in a resurgence of problem behaviors that maybe were taken care of already, like rebelliousness, acting out.”
According to the lawsuit, the family is seeking money for damages to be determined during the trial.
We’ll follow up and let you know what happens.
The principal at Kaimuki Middle School told KHON2 in 2015 that they sometimes do notify students about these lockdown drills and sometimes they don’t, and they don’t plan on changing that because they want to make sure they know how students will react during these very different situations.
The Department of Education emailed us saying: “Safety drills provide real-life situations where schools can analyze areas of strengths and weaknesses. In order to accomplish this, students are not notified when a drill will take place.”
We also asked the principal about holding the drill on the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. He says he didn’t organize the drill, but says students should be prepared because a real lockdown could happen at anytime.
After the original KHON2 report aired, the school posted on its website that “we work hard here at KMS to create a safe and secure environment for students and staff, and to practice drills so that we know how to respond should a crisis occur. It was not our intention to cause distress. We will post approximate dates for every future drill, including the yearly Second-Site Evacuation transportation form.”