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Florida teacher fired after asking students to write their own obituaries for active shooter drill

Psychology teacher Jeffrey Keene is fighting his termination, says he did nothing wrong.
/ Source: NBC News

A Florida teacher was fired hours after he asked students to write their own obituaries ahead of an active shooter drill on campus, the instructor and school district said Friday, April 7.

Psychology teacher Jeffrey Keene told NBC News he believes he used proper judgement for the assignment to 11th and 12th-graders during first period on April 4 at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando.

After being told about the drill on April 3, Keene said he felt the obituaries would help the students reflect on their lives during the school shooter scenario.

“‘This isn’t a way to upset you or anything like that,’” he recalled telling his class of 35.

“It wasn’t to scare them or make them feel like they were going to die, but just to help them understand what’s important in their lives and how they want to move forward with their lives and how they want to pursue things in their journey.”

By second period, Keene, who’d just been hired in January, said students from that class were telling him they were being interviewed by school officials about the assignment.

And before the end of seventh period, he’d been fired.

“If you can’t talk real to them, then what’s happening in this environment?” Keene said. “In my mind, I’ve done nothing wrong.”

A representative for the Orange County School District declined to substantively discuss the matter on April 7.

But when asked if Keene had been dismissed, the district spokesman said in statement: “Dr. Phillips High School families were informed that a teacher gave an inappropriate assignment about school violence. Administration immediately investigated and the probationary employee has been terminated.”

Keene, 63, said he was a new hire and not a member of the union, and thus has no recourse to reverse the district’s decision.

He hopes to find another teaching job and vowed not to change anything.

“I don’t think I did anything incorrectly,” Keene said. “I know hindsight is 20/20 but I honestly didn’t think a 16-, 17-, 18-year-old would be offended or upset by talking about something we’re already talking about.”

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