A home-school advocacy group is asking the US Department of Homeland Security to investigate a mock terror drill in Michigan that portrayed home schoolers as bus-bombing radicals.
The drill held by the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District and Muskegon County Emergency Services was carried out to help first responders practice what they would do if a bus bombing killed and injured dozens of school students. According to the Muskegon Chronicle newspaper, the exercise was designed to “simulate an attack by a fictitious radical group called 'Wackos Against Schools and Education,' who believe everyone should be home schooled.”
Representatives of the Muskegon Area school district and Muskegon County Emergency Services have both apologized for the swipe at home-school students and their families. The school district's statement said that it “shared the disappointment of others when we learned the emergency preparedness drill referenced home schoolers as the fictitious group responsible for a mock disaster. We apologize.”
And Daniel Stout, the Emergency Services employee who authored the scenario for the exercise, wrote a letter of apology in which he explained that the fictional group in the scenario “was not meant to offend any home school students.” He insists that his vignette characterizing the fake terrorists as home schoolers “has nothing to do with any home-school population.”
In his letter, Stout went on to note, “Home school students and former students are a very important part of our nation. This scenario will not be used again.”
But regardless of the intent, the scenario has had the effect of insulting many home-education supporters. Mike Smith of the Washington, DC-based Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is among these. He says he was particularly offended that a negative stereotype of home schoolers was used in the taxpayer-funded drill.
“It's preposterous, basically,” Smith says. “It's so beyond the pale of any credibility that it's very upsetting, but in some ways it's humorous.”
Although the HSLDA spokesman says he is satisfied with the apology, he notes that the outcry over the Muskegon incident has been widespread. “We have received many phone calls and emails from home schoolers around the country, very upset about it, wanting us to do something about it,” he says.
A Muskegon Chronicle report quoted Debbie Nelson of Savannah, Georgia, as saying she vehemently opposes “instigating fear of home schoolers by public servants and the school system.” And the HSLDA's senior counsel, Chris Klicka, commented that characterizing home schoolers as terrorists “even in a fictitious context is uncalled-for and unneeded.”
For that reason, Smith says the group wants to see the matter pursued further, in order to get to the bottom of what actually happened. He says the HSLDA will be addressing a letter to Tom Ridge, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, asking him to “look into this, to investigate it, number one. And number two, to make sure it doesn't happen again. That's what we're going to try to do, because it was funded, at least partially, by the federal government.”
Five thousand dollars in government funds went into the mock terror drill, in which Muskegon area school officials, bus drivers, students and parents participated. Planning for the event began last year, but according to the author of the exercise scenario, no one suggested the name might offend anyone until a few weeks ago.
(This article courtesy of Agape Press).