MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Colonial Middle School is doing some explaining to parents after a skit about bullying got a little too real for some students.
At least one person contacted WREG saying the skit that was staged at the school Wednesday used a fake gun that looked and sounded real, alarming some students.
That had the principal sending a voicemail to parents explaining that the skit, and the fake gun, were part of a Unity Day program about bullying and threats.
Shelby County Schools sent us the following statement that was sent via voicemail to parents by the school's principal:
“Hello Colonial families, this is principal Fifer. I'm calling to update you about our Unity Day program today. Unity Day is aimed to address issues of bullying and threats and encourage kids to work together to create a safe and respectful environment. We had a group come and perform a skit as part of our assembly today, and the skit involved a fake gun that looked and sounded real. The assembly was very positive, and we had a great day participating in Unity Day. I just wanted to make sure you heard from me in case your child told you about the portion of the skit with the gun. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us. I appreciate your partnership and support of Colonial. Have a great night.”
Paula Cohnes, who has a grandchild at the school's deaf program, said she was surprised to learn about the skit.
She said those who put on the performance should have known better, given the backlash recently faced by a Mississippi high school band after their halftime performance featured guns, and several recent shootings involving police officers.
"They shouldn't be playing with guns, period, because you could mistake it for real," Cohnes said. "It was wrong because you don't use guns, period. We teach our kids don't put up guns."
The school district told WREG administrators were not aware a fake weapon was going to be used and while the event was positive it was shocking for some students and staff so administrators chose to stop the performance early.
One father who was picking up his child Thursday said he can see where the concern comes from. But on the other hand, he says the skit could benefit some students.
"Sometimes they need a reality dose," father Clarence Fields said. He believes seeing the skit, that could be viewed as startling to some, help get them back on the right path.
"Maybe it will give them the right chance to change or say, 'Hey look. If I'm not doing anything I'm going to make sure I continue to do that."
WREG spoke with the founder of the group that put on the skit. He said it was about gang reduction and they've been performing it for 13 years with no problems.
He says it's been highly effective and ends with a pledge for students to get out of gangs. He also told us administrators and the audience were made aware a fake weapon was going to be used.