Did FCHS ‘fire drill’ force walkout?

FCHS students exit the school during the 17-minute ‘fire drill’ that coincided with the 17-minute national student walkouts last week. | wistv.com

WINNSBORO – Students in schools around the country, including those at Fairfield Central High School, walked out of classes at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Mar. 14 and remained outside for 17 minutes in remembrance of the 17 people recently killed at a school in Florida.

But some parents of Fairfield High School students took to Facebook claiming that the FCHS walkout was not the choice of all students and that the timing of a fire drill was contrived by the school administration to force all students to participate.

“Will the Fairfield County School Board please explain why [some] students were forced to participate in the school walkout disguised as a fire drill?” one parent wrote on School Board Chairman William Frick’s Facebook page.

“I am working to find out how this occurred,” Frick posted. “As I understand it, this was not originally intended to endorse any particular view. Unfortunately, as it transpired, it did just that. While I certainly support an individual’s right to express their political opinion, a certain political view should not be endorsed by our school as a whole. I have expressed my personal displeasure with this situation today.”

When asked for a comment, FCHS principal Tracie Swilley e-mailed the following statement to The Voice: “In an attempt to prevent a potential confrontation with students who wished to express their acknowledgement for the lives lost during the Florida tragedy, we decided to conduct our monthly fire drill.  While out during the drill some students elected to discuss their concerns relating to school safety.  There was no mention of politics or gun control but an opportunity for students to understand how to appropriately express their voice.  Some students remained outside for several minutes after the drill, while others returned immediately.”

As parents continued to comment, one post stated: “We should not lend any validity to this thinly veiled attempt to cover this up as something that it’s not.”

By one parent’s account, some students did not want to participate, so at exactly 10 a.m., the students were alerted that a fire drill was taking place and all marched outside, ostensibly for the fire drill, and stayed outside as TV cameras from WIS-TV and WLTX-TV rolled. Then, after 17 minutes, the students returned to their classrooms.

While school officials claimed that what was perceived as a walkout was actually a fire drill, some parents who posted on Facebook and called The Voice questioned the fire drill’s timing, that it coincided to the minute with the national walking out and, in effect, forced students to participate.

“I think that’s probably what happened,” Frick said. “By doing a contemporaneous fire drill, it ended up being an actual walkout,” he said.

Frick told The Voice that he did not know who called the television stations to be at the school at the time of the fire drill.

“That was an issue I raised because I saw it was on WLTX & WIS. It was my concern,” Frick said.

“It was perceived as a political event. It’s a touchy issue and I don’t like it for the school to appear to take a side,” Frick said. “I want to be sure we have an open dialogue and that people know what’s going on…I understand the parents’ concerns. There was an implication that we need to take some corrective action and whatever we need to do we’re going to do.”


  1. Vera Bilal says

    The school should be applauded for thinking about the safety of the students and being respectful enough of the students to allow them a chance to express themselves. It would’ve been chaotic if the school lost track of a large portion of their students on that day. It was smart thinking on the part of the administration.

  2. Randy Bright says

    You know it is a slow news day when TV stations rush to cover a contrived fire drill. I suppose the stations’ Fairfield based heliocopters saw the “drill” from the sky and directed their roving Fairfield news teams to the scene.

  3. Jessica says

    So what you are saying is ok because it was a easy way to keep up with those students that wanted to walk? So the others shouldn’t have a choice? How about if they kept them all inside then? That way they could have to keep up with them. Forcing kids to be apart of something was not right. They knew what they were doing when they had that so called drill. They are wrong for making others attend just to make their job easier.

  4. Patrivk says

    That statement is laughable. It was a HORRIBLE decision by the administration.

  5. Randy Bright says

    You know a school is in trouble when the administration has to resort to a using a fire drill because the principal has little confidence in their ability to maintain order in an assembly.

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