Florida parents and students were frightened by an unannounced active shooter drill that took place at a middle school Thursday, but officials and police defend not giving prior warning.
"We actually thought that someone was going to come in there and kill us," Lauren Marionneaux, a seventh grade student at Jewett Middle Academy, told WTVT-TV.
The news station reported that two police officers, one armed with an AR-15, rushed into Lauren's classroom during the drill.
"I'm panicking because I'm thinking that it's a legitimate shooter [...] coming, that something bad is happening at the school," said Stacy Ray, Lauren's mother who got a text from her daughter that read "I thought he was going to shoot me," according to WTVT.
It wasn't until the "lockdown active shooter drill" was complete that parents were notified about it through an email. Polk County Schools spokesman Jason Geary told WTVT the drill was handled according to standard protocols.
The police department also defended the officers acting in the drill having their weapons drawn, something Ray said went too far.
"It really is to protect the children and at no point in time would we endanger any of the children," Winter Haven Police Chief Charlie Bird told WTVT. Bird added that not issuing advanced notice allows officials to assess how prepared a school in its response if a real situation were to occur.
Other county schools in the area told the news station they conduct similar drills, but usually when the building is empty during a summer or holiday vacation.
Watch WTVT's report: