FILE – In this Friday June 9, 2017 file photo, students are led out of school as members of the Fountain Police Department take part in an Active Shooter Response Training exercise at Fountain Middle School in Fountain, Colo. (Dougal Brownlie/The Gazette via AP, File)
UPDATED 11:54 AM PT — Tuesday, February 18, 2020
There have been growing calls to reform or end active shooter training in schools. Advocates have said they may actually be harming students instead of protecting them.
In recent years, school shootings in the U.S. have become all too common. The names Sandy Hook and Marjory Stoneman Douglas have become household names. The tragedies led schools around the country to begin implementing active shooter trainings to prepare students. However, two of the country’s biggest teachers unions have claimed these drills are doing more harm than good.
The National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers called for these drills to stop or change.
“We need an alternative to these active driller shooters.” stated Merrie Najimy, member of Massachusetts Teacher Association. “They create a sense of anxiety and trauma.”
These unions argued active shooter trainings can be terrifying for students, especially if they are unexpected or too realistic. Some schools use fake blood, sound effects and real law enforcement officials.
Others have said these drills are necessary to ensure students know exactly what to do in these scenarios.
“Do you want to scare a child? Send them to SAT or ACT testing without preparing them, send them to a ball game without practice?” asked citizen John Luther. “That’ll show you the same results that not training for hazardous situations in schools is going to do.”
Students released from a lockdown embrace following following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
About 95 percent of schools nationwide hold some type of lockdown drill. These unions and the National Association of School Psychologists have argued if the trainings are going to continue, they need to be tailored. Schools should focus more on training teachers than students.
Parents and mental health professionals should also be involved and younger children should not take part in role playing scenarios.
“What children can’t do is, they can’t distinguish between something that’s happening right now or something that’s happening in the future,” stated Dr. Laurel Williams.
While teachers unions and drill advocates disagree on the best approach to take, they do agree that the focus needs to be on students to ensure they are protected both physically and mentally.