Marek Warszawski

California superintendent’s active shooter drill was a ‘sick joke.’ He should be fired

School board calls for discipline over active shooter drill

A superintendent in Fresno County faced tough criticism Tuesday and potential discipline from the school board in connection with a controversial active-shooter drill in which a school employee wore a mask and held a fake gun while shaking classroom
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A superintendent in Fresno County faced tough criticism Tuesday and potential discipline from the school board in connection with a controversial active-shooter drill in which a school employee wore a mask and held a fake gun while shaking classroom

Sound judgment must not be a prerequisite for being a school administrator.

At least not in Raisin City.

Hard to come up with any other explanation for the thoughtless, callous actions of Raisin City Elementary School Superintendent Juan Sandoval.

In case you missed this story, Sandoval on June 3 authorized an active shooter drill at the school that felt all too real to teachers and students who were not notified in advance.

Imagine how those kids must’ve felt when a masked man wielding a rifle rattled their classroom door. The “culprit” turned out to be a school janitor. Also involved in the drill (presumably under Sandoval’s direction) were cafeteria employees and office workers.

“They were all laughing” at a school assembly afterward, third-grade teacher Danny Nason said. “They thought the entire situation was hilarious. While they were celebrating, my students were extremely upset. Some were crying, others were asking me to call their mothers because they had either a stomachache, headache, or wanted to go home.”

Was this Sandoval’s idea of a sick joke?

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It’s sad enough that school shootings have become so commonplace that active shooter and lockdown drills are a part of campus life. (We’ve had them at The Bee, too.) But the purpose of those drills is to quell nerves and trauma, not inflame them.

Which is exactly what Sandoval did. And for what? A chuckle?

Now that Raisin City teachers and parents have called for Sandoval’s immediate resignation and the school board voted 5-0 to discipline him, I’ll bet he no longer considers this such a laughing matter.

Unless there’s more to the story, Sandoval’s actions merit his immediate dismissal. The staff, students and parents of Raisin City Elementary deserve a superintendent who looks after their interests rather than exploit their fears.

Sandoval has a long, checkered history in rural school districts having previously worked in Parlier, Delano, McFarland, Richgrove and Earlimart.

A school lockdown is a precautionary measure issued in response to a direct or nearby threat. It requires staff and students to respond quickly and comply with rules. Here’s how it often works.

In 2007 Sandoval filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against a Parlier police officer who tased him during a board meeting for allegedly being unruly. The case was thrown out.

In 2014 Sandoval ran for Fresno County Superintendent of Public Schools but lost in a landslide to Jim Yovino. Later that year, Sandoval was fired from his position as assistant superintendent with the Parlier Unified School District, a move Sandoval claimed was retaliation for not engaging with illegal activity in the district. He was awarded $350,000 to settle a wrongful termination suit, according to court records.

In addition to having questionable judgment, this is a man who’s no stranger to litigation. Let that be a warning to any future employer now that Sandoval’s time at Raisin City has shriveled on the vine.

Marek Warszawski writes opinion columns on news, politics, sports and quality of life issues for The Fresno Bee, where he has worked since 1998. He is a Bay Area native, a UC Davis graduate and lifelong Sierra frolicker. He welcomes discourse with readers but does not suffer fools nor trolls.
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