San Gabriel principal on leave after pretending to shoot kids during drill, parents say

A principal at a San Gabriel elementary school was put on leave of absence by district administrators after pretending to shoot kids and announcing that children were "dead" during an active shooter lockdown drill, according to parents and staff.

The incident, which is under investigation by the school district, occurred Wednesday at Washington Elementary and involved Nina Denson, who has served as principal of the school since fall 2023.

Parents and staff members at the school told KTLA-TV that Denson pretended to shoot students during the drill using her fingers to represent a gun and announced that seven children had been killed.

“She proceeded to walk around campus and pretended to shoot people she saw using finger movements and banging on windows,” Jennifer Chavez, a parent, told the TV station. “From what I heard, she said to one of the students, ‘Boom. You’re dead.’”

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Jim Symonds, superintendent of the San Gabriel Unified School District, confirmed in a statement Friday that the district was notified about concerns from parents and teachers about the lockdown drill.

"After an initial investigation, the District determined that the drill did not appear to be conducted in line with either district guidance or recommended best practices," according to the statement.

Denson has been placed on leave of absence while the district conducts an investigation of the incident. Katie Ingram, a teacher at Washington Elementary, will serve as administrative designee in Denson's absence, Symonds said.

Symonds declined to comment further about the details of Wednesday's incident, citing the ongoing investigation. He said that district officials communicated with parents and staff Wednesday afternoon and have made counseling resources available starting Thursday morning.

"We deeply regret the impact that has been caused, and appreciate everyone’s patience as we conduct our investigation," he wrote.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.