|Homeschoolers portrayed as terrorists
Federally funded security exercise concocts fictitious foe
WorldNetDaily | September 22, 2004
In a federally funded exercise to prepare emergency responders for a terrorist attack, a Michigan county concocted a scenario in which public-school children were threated by a fictitious radical group that believes everyone should be homeschooled.
The made-up group was called Wackos Against Schools and Education.
The exercise in Muskegon, Mich., yesterday simulated a situation in which a bomb on board a bus full of children knocks the vehicle on its side and fills the passenger compartment with smoke.
Dan Stout, director of Muskegon County Emergency Services, told WorldNetDaily the choice of the fictitious group certainly was not meant to offend homeschoolers.
"I don't think there was any particular objective other than to just have a name," he said.
A WND reader who saw a story about the exercise in the Muskegon Chronicle, however, said he was "outraged" at the characterization of the terrorists.
Stout said the general idea for the type of group came from the website of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, which suggests group names such as "Wackos Against Recreation" and other such "causes."
"If somebody is offended, I feel bad about that and sorry about that," he said. "There wasn't any offense meant to anybody who homeschools."
Kevin Galvin, a FEMA spokesman in Washington, D.C., told WND he could not address the issue but would find someone familiar with the homeland security simulations who could respond.
The exercise was funded by homeland security grants to area school districts and Muskegon county.
Stout said about $5,000 of federal funds went into yesterday's event, but its cost was much higher and was borne mostly by the volunteer efforts of other agencies and institutions involved, such as hospitals.
The emergency manager said that during the exercise there was no acting out of the "terrorist group." The storyline was used only to explain how the bus ended up on its side.
People simulating injuries were attended by the fire department, which transported them to a hospital. School officials also went through the exercise of contacting parents.
About 60 middle and high school students from local public schools acted out the part of victims, the Chronicle reported. College students were there to apply makeup that added to the realism. More than 200 people planned to observe the exercise, the paper said, including bus drivers, school administrators, emergency personnel and evaluators from agencies across the state.