ORLANDO, Fla. (WFLA) – A central Florida high school teacher has been fired after he asked students to write their own obituaries ahead of an active shooter drill.
Jeffrey Keene, a psychology teacher at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, said he was made aware of the shooter drill on April 3. Speaking with NBC News, Keene said he felt students writing their own obituaries would help them “reflect on their lives during the school shooter scenario.”
According to NBC News, Keene gave the assignment to a class of 11th and 12th graders during first period on April 4.
He told his class of 35 students, “This isn’t a way to upset you or anything like that. It wasn’t to scare them or make them feel 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.”
However, by second period, students from his class said they were being interviewed by school administrators about the assignment. By seventh period, the teacher – who had been hired in January – had been fired.
“If you can’t talk real to them, then what’s happening in this environment?” Keene told NBC News. “In my mind, I’ve done nothing wrong.”
On Monday, Nexstar’s WFLA reached out to the Orange County School District regarding Keene’s employment status. The district spokesperson responded by stating that the school administration immediately investigated the situation and the “employee has been terminated.”
“While the district does not comment on employee matters, Dr. Phillips High School families were informed that a teacher gave an inappropriate assignment about school violence,” the district’s media relations manager Michael Olldendorff said in a statement. “Administration immediately investigated, and the probationary employee has been terminated. Please note that an employee appointed on probationary status shall attain permanent status in his or her current position upon successful completion of at least a 1-year probationary period.”
Keene told NBC News that since he was a new hire and not a member of the union, it wasn’t possible for him to reverse the school district’s final decision. The 63-year-old teacher said he plans to find another teaching job and reportedly “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.”
Keene, a teacher since 2008, told Orlando’s WOFL he plans to appeal his termination.