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File under really bad ideas: Ontario college stages mock school massacre Add to ...

There are bad ideas – and then there are truly baffling, holy-mother-of-common-sense what-were-you-thinking bad ideas.

Which category does a mock school massacre – complete with theatre students pretending to be victims, covered in fake blood from the special effects department – fall under?

Just look at this photo – with dozens of smiling, bloodied students showing off their fake bullet wounds – and then cast your vote.

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Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont., just west of Toronto, staged the “mockdown,” with local police officers acting as shooters firing blanks with replica handguns, taking hostages in a classroom and then being taken down by police.

File all of this under “a good idea on paper, but disastrous in execution”? Surely preparedness in such troubled times is a good thing, with tragic events a sad reality on Canadian campuses. But acting out a massacre like a high-school theatre production crosses some real common sense lines.

(For what it’s worth: In 2008, Sheridan had something of a scare, in which a student – talking with a tripod under his arm – caused a police lockdown.)

The Halton police force said it enforces drills throughout the region every year – but this year joined forces with the school to up the ante.

“This is the first time we’ve actually had live role players, in the form of the theatre arts students,” Sgt. Barry Hughes told the Oakville Beaver newspaper.

Sheridan student Quinn Dooley, who acted as a dead student, recalled her “supercrazy” day for the paper.

“It was kind of a stressful experience once you got down there. The floor was really cold so I was shaking,” she said.

Does staging something – and smiling about it – actually prepare anyone for real terror? Or is such a fiasco in terribly bad taste?

It seems the school administration agrees with the latter: While officials originally agreed that the student newspaper could cover the event, they have now censored the student website, removing the videos and photos of the exercise. A great lesson in journalistic integrity if ever there was one.

This is a lesson in many things – but student safety isn’t high on that list.

But perhaps tact, human decency, compassion – and how not to handle a public relations crisis? We can hope.

Follow me on Twitter: @amberlym

 

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