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Federal lawsuit filed over teachers hit with plastic bullets in active shooter drill

Teachers allege they suffered injuries and emotional distress as a result
Posted at 8:40 PM, Aug 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-24 23:50:38-04

WHITE COUNTY — A group of White County teachers filed a lawsuit against the White County Sheriff’s Department and some of its deputies over a March active shooter training drill that involved teachers being shot with plastic and airsoft bullets.

Eight teachers, who taught at Meadowlawn Elementary in Monticello at the time of the incident, filed the lawsuit in federal court on Aug. 14, accusing the sheriff’s department and its deputies of assault and battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of the teachers’ constitutional rights.

On Jan. 4, 2019, teachers arrived at Meadowlawn Elementary School anticipating a professional development day but instead, they were repeatedly attacked by law enforcement officers without explanation or warning, according to the lawsuit.

As part of the active-shooter training, the teachers were hit by high-velocity plastic bullets and officers yelled verbal threats and expletives at them, the lawsuit alleges.

One White County law enforcement officer yelled at the teachers “I’m going to kill you all!” records show.

Some teachers suffered injuries such as bruising, bleeding, welts, and broken skin.

“The teachers displayed obvious signs of anguish and physical pain, but were humiliated to find the law enforcement officers joking and laughing at them,” read the lawsuit. “The terrifying and inexplicable experience left the teachers with lasting physical and emotional injuries.”

One teacher was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and continues to take prescription medication to the present day, the lawsuit alleges.

Court documents accuse the sheriff of not properly training its officers, and the lawsuit alleges the teachers signed no waiver before participating nor did they consent to this type of training.

The training model used by White County, nor best practices for active shooter trainings, call for non-law-enforcement participants to be shot during trainings, nor do they involve participants being shot without their consent, the teachers allege in their lawsuit.

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WRTV reached out to White County, the White County Sheriff’s Department and some of the officers named in the lawsuit.

County attorney George Loy advised it is their practice not to publicly comment about pending litigation, said Donya Tirpak, an administrative assistant with the White County Commissioners office.

WRTV also contacted attorneys for the teachers for a statement on the lawsuit and we have not heard back.

Keith Gambill, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association issued the following statement:

Upon hearing the stories of our members involved in the incident, ISTA moved quickly for a legislative solution. We had a legislative fix in 2019, but the language protecting teachers during trainings was removed in the Senate.

As members of ISTA, we are now providing the injured teachers with legal representation. We do not want this type of incident to ever happen again to any of our members. ISTA never stops fighting for the rights of its members, whether it’s in the Indiana General Assembly or in the justice system.

The teachers are represented by Indianapolis law firm Riley Bennett Egloff LLP and the National Education Association.

The teachers are seeking compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees, and requesting a jury trial.