Outrage as school safety drill required teacher to don Arab-style keffiyeh and play the role of an active shooter
- Video clips circulated this week of the drill at high school in Pennsylvania
- Teachers in Penn-Trafford District were training for active shooter in January
- One tasked as playing a shooter was wearing an Arab-style headscarf
- Some reacted with outrage accusing the school district of anti-Muslim bias
- District objects that the costume also involved a blonde wig and paintball mask
- Said the point was merely to obscure the teacher’s identity, not portray as Arab
Some have reacted with outrage after a teacher portraying an active shooter during a staff safety drill donned an Arab-style keffiyeh as part of a disguise.
The controversy was stirred when video clips emerged this week of the staff-only training drill that took place in western Pennsylvania’s Penn-Trafford School District on January 21.
The training was for teachers only, but students in the A/V Club filmed part of it, and recent posted the video online to show off their work. The video has now been removed, and the school district refuses to let news outlets publish it, saying it was never intended for the public.
At issue is a teacher seen wearing a keffiyeh, a headscarf associated with Palestinians – though the district says it was part of a random disguise that also consisted of a long blonde wig and paintball mask.
Some alumni expressed outrage after a teacher portraying an active shooter during a staff safety drill donned an Arab-style keffiyeh as part of a disguise
But the school district said that the video clip didn’t accurately portray the disguise, which was a random assortment of the headscarf, a paintball mask, and a blonde wig (above)
Alicia McElhaney, a 2012 Penn-Trafford graduate currently working as a journalist in Brooklyn, led the online outrage, tweeting that the incident was ‘unacceptable’ and vowing to organize a response to the video.
‘I believe it’s implied that this person is a person of color,’ McElhaney told the Tribune-Review. ‘I think that’s wrong.’
John Sakoian, who runs Command Excellence, a business that conducted the active shooter drill, told the newspaper that the costume was not approved, and the teacher’s involvement in the drill was ‘accidental’.
In a statement, the school district said that the intent of the costumes used in the active shooter drill was ‘to alter their appearance so that they were not readily recognizable by their co-workers.’
‘There was no intent to represent any particular culture or religion,’ the district said.
‘Screen captures of the video shared on social media fail to show the full costume worn by the volunteer,’ the statement continued.
The entrance to Penn-Trafford High is seen above. The active shooter drill occurred on January 21 but video of the event leaked online only recently
‘The individual wore a long blonde wig with a scarf tied around his head and a paintball/tactical mask over his face. He was dressed in a dark zip-up sweatshirt and dark pants. There was no intent by the District, police department or consultant as part of the training to provide an identity to the volunteers as anything other than an active shooter,’ the district said.
Penn-Trafford High has a student body of about 1,300 student, 98 per cent of whom are white.
McElhaney was not satisfied at the explanation, tweeting: ‘honestly, still not a good look.’
Others connected to the school were less certain in their condemnation.
‘I just thought they they could’ve done a normal person, so it wouldn’t offend anyone,’ one sophomore at Penn-Trafford High told KDKA-TV.
Another parent at the school told the CBS affiliate: ‘I’m not sure why they would choose to put a scarf on this person. Does it offend me personally? No. I guess I’m not really sure what to think about that.’