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School District, Sheriff Sued|Over Peculiar ‘Safety Drill’

ROCKFORD, Ill. (CN) - A high school student claims in court that his school district and the sheriff conducted a boneheaded "safety drill" in which a fake intruder entered school with a realistic-looking cap gun, fired two shots and singled him out as a target, and that after the student fled, sheriff's officers interrogated him about selling drugs - before revealing that it was all just pretend.

Colten Shaw sued Stephenson County Sheriff David Snyders, Sheriff's Officer Wendell McLain, the Orangeville Community Unit School District No. 203 and its Superintendent Randall Otto, and Orangeville Junior & Senior High School gym teach Toby Golembiewski, in Federal Court.

Shaw claims the defendants planned "school safety drill" to take place on May 6, 2011, at Orangeville Junior/Senior High School.

Orangeville is a town of about 800 on the Wisconsin border.

Shaw says that teachers were informed of the drill ahead of time, but students were not.

"Under the plan, Wendell McClain was to play the part of an 'armed intruder' who would enter the school at around 10 a.m. on May 6, 2011," the complaint states.

"Wendell McClain was selected for the role of the 'armed intruder' in part because he was African-American.

"Under the plan, the teachers at the school were to be informed in advance that the drill would take place on that date and at that time.

"Under the plan, parents of students attending the school were not to be informed of the drill until approximately 9 a.m. on May 6, 2011.

"Under the plan, no student was to be informed of the drill in advance.

"Under the plan, Wendell McClain, playing the part of the 'intruder,' was to carry a realistic looking 'cap pistol.'

"Under the plan, Wendell McClain was to fire the cap pistol in the air shortly after entering the school, so as to create the impression that he had fired an actual weapon.

"Under the plan, Wendell McClain was to pretend to be 'looking for' a specific student.

"Defendants Randall Otto and Toby Golembiewski selected Colten Shaw to be the specific student whom Wendell McClain, after firing the cap pistol, was to pretend to be 'looking for.'

"Under the plan, Wendell McClain was to approach Colten Shaw, point the pistol at him, threaten to shoot him, and then chase him out of the school."

The remarkable complaint continues: "Under the plan, Toby Golembiewski was to flee the school with Colten Shaw and then attempt to persuade him to return in order to confront the armed intruder.

"Under the plan, Colten Shaw was to be told, before he returned to the school, that a secretary had been killed by the armed intruder.

"Under the plan, Colten Shaw was not to be told that the incident was a drill until after the other students had been informed that the incident was a drill and that they could return to the school.

"Under the plan, Colten Shaw was to be confronted with the intruder, apparently in police custody, when Colten returned to the school, and Wendell McClain, playing the intruder, was to again threaten him.

"Under the plan Colten Shaw was not to be told that the incident was a drill until after he had been interrogated by Stephenson County Sheriff's Deputies as to what he 'knew' about the armed intruder's motives for attacking him."

The plan began as scheduled, according to the 16-page complaint.

"At approximately 9:00 a.m., parents of students at the school were called and told about the drill. They were told not to contact their children or inform them of the drill.

"At approximately 10:00 a.m. Wendell McClain entered the school, went to the office and fired two shorts from his cap pistol.

"Colten Shaw, who was in gym class at the time, heard the shots.

"Immediately after firing the shots, McClain entered the gym through the lobby doors.

"McClain was dressed in sweatpants and a T-shirt.

"After entering the gym, McClain pulled the pistol out of his waistband, brandished it at Colten Shaw and announced, 'I'm looking for Colten.'

"Colten Shaw, who had heard the two shots, thought that he was going to be shot and killed.

"Colten Shaw, together with the other students in the gym, fled the school."

The students fled in two groups and hid, somewhat ironically, "in bushes behind [School Superintendent] Randall Otto's house," according to the complaint.

Shaw says that he and defendant gym teacher Golembiewski were in different groups. But Shaw says Golembiewski came over to his group and "told Colten Shaw that he should return to the school to speak with the armed intruder."

Shaw says he refused, and that Golembiewski then gave him his (Golembiewski's) cell phone.

"Colten Shaw then fled to a friend's house," the complaint states.

"At or around the same time, the other students who had fled, but not Colten Shaw, were told that the incident was a drill.

"While at his friend's house, Colten Shaw received a telephone call on the cellphone from Toby Golembiewski.

"Golembiewski told Colten Shaw that the school secretary had been shot and killed, and that the intruder was now in custody."

Shaw says he returned to school, saw McClain, still in character, in custody of two Stephenson County sheriff's deputies. "McClain threatened Colten and gave him 'dirty' looks," the complaint states.

"Colten Shaw was taken into the school office by the Sheriff's Deputies, who proceeded to interrogate him.

"At that time, Colten Shaw did not feel free to leave.

"Colten Shaw was questioned as to whether he was an accomplice in selling drugs.

"He was also asked: Why was that black guy there?

"At the time he was being interrogated, Colten Shaw did not feel free to leave.

"After a few minutes, Colten Shaw was told that the whole incident had been a drill."

Shaw claims that School Superintendent "Randall Otto's action in singling Colten Shaw out for different treatment was based upon Randall Otto's personal dislike or hatred of Colten Shaw."

He seeks damages for conspiracy, constitutional violations, assault, and intentional infliction of extreme emotional distress.

He is represented by Stephen Richards of Chicago, who told Courthouse News that the complaint "is pretty self-explanatory."

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