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Teacher unions want an end to active shooter drills

Feb. 13, 2020
The NEA and AFT, along with the group Everytown for Gun Safety, say such drills traumatize some students.

The nation’s two largest teachers unions want schools to revise or eliminate active shooter drills, asserting  that they can harm students’ mental health and that there are better ways to prepare for the possibility of a school shooting.

The Associated Press reports that the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and National Education Association (NEA) joined with the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund in calling for an end to unannounced drills or drills that simulate gun violence.

“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,” says Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA president. “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.”

A report released by the unions and Everytown for Gun Safety recommends schools concentrate on training teachers to respond to an active shooter incident rather than drilling students.

It also recommended guidelines for schools that decide to use drills. Those include never simulating an actual shooting; giving parents, educators and students advance notice of any drill; working with mental health officials to create age-appropriate and trauma-informed drills; and tracking the effects of drills.

About 95% of schools drilled students on lockdown procedures in the 2015-16 school year, according to a survey by the National Center for Education Statistics.

“In Indiana they were shooting teachers with rubber pellets so they would feel the adrenaline of what a school shooting would feel like,” says 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.”

Jean-Paul Guilbault,  chief executive of the Alice Training Institute, which runs active shooter drills, said they are effective when done appropriately. He said his company never runs surprise drills, but believes that simulating an event is the best way to prepare for one “and allow students to practice their options, whether that be lockdown or evacuation.”

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