2 Suspended for School Prank That
Scared Pupils in Tennessee
By THEO EMERY
Published: May 15, 2007
MURFREESBORO, Tenn., May 14 — A teacher and an
assistant principal were suspended Monday for a
prank in which sixth graders on a sleepover trip
were told that a gunman was prowling nearby and were
ordered to hide in silence.
School officials in this small city, about 35 miles
south of Nashville, took the action against the
teacher, Quentin Mastin, and the assistant
principal, Don Bartch, because of the incident
Thursday during a trip by a group of Scales
Elementary School pupils to secluded Fall Creek
Falls State Park, a school spokeswoman, Cheryl
“It was a spontaneous prank that got out of hand,”
Ms. Harris said.
The leaders usually pull a prank on the students
during the weeklong trip, typically a spine-chilling
ghost story, and the 69 children had been told to
expect one this year, she said.
But on the trip’s last night, Mr. Mastin told the
children that a park ranger had warned that there
was a gunman roving the park, and that they should
While the children hid under tables in a dormitory,
a chaperone pulled a hood up over her head and
rattled the door from the outside. Some children
wept in fear in the dark, parents have said in news
“At first I thought I was going to die,” a student,
Shay Naylor, 11, told The Tennessean newspaper in
Nashville. “A teacher told us, ‘We just got a call
that there’s been a random shooting.’ I was freaked
out. I thought it was serious.”
Afterward, the adult leaders turned the lights on
and admitted it was a prank, praising the students
for following what are called “code red” emergency
school procedures. Ms. Harris said the choice of
prank was unfortunate, particularly given the recent
shootings at Virginia Tech University, in which 32
students and teachers were killed.
“I don’t think this person, this lead teacher, was
even associating what he was doing with that,
unfortunately,” Ms. Harris said.
Some parents, who gave their consent for the trip
but were not told of the prank beforehand, were not
amused to learn about it. More than 40 parents
attended a meeting with the principal on Saturday,
and some parents have reported that the incident
terrified their children.
Jessica Giles, an assistant professor of psychology
at the Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt
University, said such an incident could create
lasting anxiety, and lead students to doubt their
teachers in a real emergency.