A teacher and assistant principal have been suspended by Tennessee school officials for orchestrating a fake gunman-on-the-loose scenario that frightened some sixth graders during an overnight school trip to a state park last week.
Marilyn Mathis, director of schools in Murfreesboro, Tenn., announced late Monday that Quentin Mastin, a teacher, and Don Bartch, an administrator, would be suspended without pay, effective immediately. The suspensions will run through June 1, the end of the school year.
The educators, among the chaperons overseeing Scales Elementary School's annual sixth-grade trip to Fall Creek Falls state park, played a "prank" on students last Thursday night in which they warned them that someone was on the loose firing a weapon on park grounds.
The safety drill, which Mathis described in a news release Sunday as a "prank" intended to be a "teaching opportunity," outraged some parents, who believed the drill crossed a line -- particularly in light of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech less than a month ago.
The sixth-grade students had been told to expect a typical campfire "prank" some time before the trip ended, according to the release.
After students had a nighttime snack Thursday and returned to dorm-style buildings to prepare for the return trip home Friday, Mastin, the teacher responsible for organizing this year's prank, told students that there were people inside the state park shooting guns.
He added that the park ranger had advised him to tell everyone to take cover as precaution, according to the release.
Mastin instructed the students to hide under tables as they would during a "code red" situation, the term used by the school to describe an incident involving an intruder with a gun, knife or bomb.
The school said that after being told that the scenario was a "prank," many students exchanged high-fives and laughed about how the teacher had gotten them with the joke.
But when school officials later checked on the students, several were distraught.
The school held a meeting with parents Saturday to discuss the incident, which was attended by 42 of the 69 families that had children on the trip. Afterward, at least four angry parents met individually with school principal Catherine Stephens.
"You have to wonder about people who are supposed to be in charge of your children and educators of young minds that seemingly have no common sense or good judgment," Brandy Cole, the mother of a student on the trip, told ABC News' Nashville affiliate WKRN.
While initially downplaying the effect of the safety drill, the school acknowledged that the educators displayed poor judgment.