Pennsylvania School Under Fire After Man Acting As Shooter During Safety Drill Is Placed In Arab Headscarf

A Pennsylvania police department is being criticized for conducting a school shooter drill where the shooter was dressed in a kaffiyeh.

Photo Credit: YouTube

| May 17 2019,

6:15 pm

A Pennsylvania police department and school district are being heavily criticized after conducting an emergency drill where a person impersonating a school shooter was dressed in a kaffiyeh, a headscarf traditionally worn in the Middle East.

The situation became public when students produced a video about the drill and posted it on YouTube, where it quickly spread.


In the video, Penn Township Police officials describe the active shooter drill and their efforts to prepare for an emergency situation by training teachers, police and students on what to do.

The actor portraying a school shooter had a purple kaffiyeh wrapped around his head as he raised his hands in the air and followed police commands.

The video generated heated discussions on Twitter about what the local police officials were trying to imply by making the shooter someone dressed in traditional Arab headwear.

Elaine Linn, board secretary of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday that the video was appalling and endangered the Muslim community in the area.

“To stereotype the shooter is appalling given the data on active shooters and the recent shootings at the Tree of Life and Christ Church,” she said. “The action of Penn-Trafford puts our community of over 10,000 Muslims in the greater Pittsburgh area in great harm.”

The school and police department downplayed the incident and said it was being taken out of context. They said the actor playing the shooter had a blonde wig under the kaffiyeh.

"The active shooter drill conducted at PT did not intend to represent any particular culture or religion as the shooters. Screen captures of the video shared on social media fail to show the full costume worn by the volunteer," The Penn-Trafford School District wrote in a statement on their website.

"There was no intent by the District, police department or consultant as part of the training to provide an identity to the volunteers as anything other than an active shooter."

Penn Township police Chief John Otto was even more forceful in his response. Otto saw nothing wrong with portraying a school shooter as someone of Arab descent.

“I’m at a loss and somewhat disappointed that folks would take a training situation where our intents were real and honest and twist them into a situation that maybe they’re looking for. But other than that, I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time on it,” he said to The Tribune-Review.

TribLive also spoke to John Sakoian who runs Command Excellence, the company contracted to help the police plan for emergency situations. He lied to the news outlet, claiming the man in the kaffiyeh was not the shooter even though the video describes in clear detail how the drill was set up. In the video, Sakoian explains how police planned to apprehend the actor wearing the kaffiyeh.

"Myself and Dr. (Matthew) Harris never approved that, and it was totally accidental that this thing happened,” he said.

No disciplinary actions are expected to be handed down at this time by either party involved.