The two largest teachers’ unions in the United States have called for an end to unannounced active-shooter drills. The drills, designed to mimic an attack by a school shooter, were apparently too real for many students who found it hard to concentrate and sleep following the drill.
The American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association worked with the anti-gun group Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund to issue a report on the nationwide effects of active-shooter drills. They are recommending either significant changes in the drills or their abolition. They believe there are better ways to prepare for an active shooter.
“Everywhere I travel, I hear from parents and educators about active shooter drills terrifying students, leaving them unable to concentrate in the classroom and unable to sleep at night,” Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, said.
“So traumatizing students as we work to keep students safe from gun violence is not the answer. That is why if schools are going to do drills, they need to take steps to ensure the drills do more good than harm.”
Since most schools refuse to do the one thing that might save kids’ lives — arm teachers and staff — active-shooter drills seemed to offer an alternative. But the way the drills were conducted left much to be desired.
“In Indiana they were shooting teachers with rubber pellets so they would feel the adrenaline of what a school shooting would feel like,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, which is part of Everytown. “In California recently, a superintendent hired a stranger to wear a mask to rattle the doors of classrooms without letting faculty and students know. We’ve seen students asked to pretend to be victims and lie down using fake blood in the hallway.”
One teacher who endured the horror of a school shooting at Sandy Hook in Newtown believes kids already know what to do in an emergency.
“Our students knew what to do,” said Clements, who now teaches at another elementary school in Newtown. “We taught them what to do in an emergency. We knew evacuation routes and where a safe spot was in the room, where nobody could see inside. But frightening students with some type of active drill, I think that is barbaric. There is no way you could possibly be prepared for the infinite number of ways that a shooting could go down with these weapons of war.”
Active-shooter drills could be handled much differently. The unions think that “giving parents, educators and students advance notice and refraining from simulating actual violence due to the trauma such drills can cause” would make more sense.
The drills seemed like a good idea, but a more general emergency plan that deals with a variety of threats might be more to the point. It certainly wouldn’t traumatize kids to prepare for tornadoes or even a fire. Familiarizing kids with exits and evacuation routes is what’s needed — not fake gunshots and fake blood.