Prairie Grove school administrators investigating school safety video that caused uproar

Official provides no time frame on completing probe

Visitors walk to the front entrance of Prairie Grove High School. (File Photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette)

PRAIRIE GROVE -- The School District's central office administrators are conducting an internal inquiry into the use of a security training video that depicted actual photos of Prairie Grove teachers or their children as being killed in a fictional school shooting.

Superintendent Reba Holmes and Shayne Taylor, middle school principal, took leaves of absence in the wake of the video shown to middle school teachers Nov. 30.

The Prairie Grove School Board, in a special meeting Dec. 2, approved the leaves for Holmes and Taylor with pay from their accrued personal vacation and sick days. Holmes will retire at the end of the school year.

The board named Pete Joenks, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, as interim superintendent.

Joenks last week said Luke Humphreys, assistant middle school principal, is in charge at the middle school. It will take board action before someone can be named an interim principal for the school, Joenks said.

Joenks and David Kellogg, assistant superintendent of transportation, maintenance and facilities, will conduct the inquiry. Joenks did not have a time frame for completing the probe.

"We're going to take as much time as we need to be able to get the most detail we can," he said.

Joenks declined comment on many questions, citing the ongoing inquiry.

He said he saw a draft video at a principals' meeting but did not see the ultimate video that was shown to teachers.

Joenks declined to comment on who approved the video or who was involved in creating the video. He did say students, as far as he knew, were not involved in creating the video. He also declined to comment on whether security training videos shown at other schools the same day used photos from actual students and/or teachers from those schools.

The reason for showing the video with the photos is also part of the inquiry, Joenks said.

In response to a request from the Washington County Enterprise-Leader newspaper under the state's Freedom of Information Act, Joenks emailed links to the videos shown at the high school, middle school and elementary school on Nov. 30. A video was not shown at the junior high.

The videos, each about four minutes long, had music and words on the screen only. No one narrated.

All three videos opened with the same somber background music and the same scenario in that "on Dec. 14, 2022, a gunman opened fire" and "21 students and staff were injured, 36 more were killed."

Each video was different in that the words on the screen said the shooting occurred at the school where the video was shown.

All three videos then had the following words: "With hope for the future and dreams that were not yet fulfilled, these were the lives tragically taken that day from all that loved them."

At this point, the video begins to scroll through photos. All photos in the link were blurred so faces could not be seen. In some instances, there were two or three people in the picture. All names had been redacted.

Joenks last week was in the process of meeting with teachers at each of the schools. He met with elementary teachers on Dec. 6.

"In the big picture of things, I'm sorry this happened," he said. "We were trying to make a statement to make teachers aware of school safety topics. The means by which it was done was a misjudgment. We're sorry for that, and we're going to learn from this and apply it to future efforts, and we're going to move forward in our school year."

photo Joenks

Videos online

See the videos shown to teachers