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Active Shooter Drills Can Have Short- and Long-Term Consequences, Mental Health Experts Warn

School safety efforts should not rely on unannounced and potentially traumatic active-shooter drills that simulate gun violence, says a new report.

School leaders should prohibit both these drills and other safety exercises that simulate gun violence because there is scant evidence that they are effective at preventing deaths in school shootings, says the report produced by the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association.

“It’s now clear that unannounced active shooter drills are scaring America’s students without making them any safer,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown, said in a statement. “We need to listen to the experts and focus on addressing gun violence before it begins, rather than subjecting our kids to counterproductive drills.”

A growing number of mental health professionals are warning that unannounced active shooter drills can have short- and long-term consequences on school performance and physical and mental health, the report says.

“What these drills can really do is potentially trigger either past trauma or trigger such a significant physiological reaction that it actually ends up scaring the individuals instead of better preparing them to respond in these kinds of situations,” Melissa Reeves, former president of the National Association of School Psychologists, said in the report.


For schools that do conduct drills, Everytown, AFT, and NEA offer six recommendations:

    1. Drills should not mimic an actual incident.
    2. Parents should receive advance notice of drills.
    3. Drills should be announced to students and educators prior to the start.
    4. Educators should work with mental health professionals to create age-appropriate drill content.
    5. Drills should be paired with trauma-informed approaches to address students’ well-being.
    6. Educators should track data about the efficacy and effects of drills.

Other tips for active shooter drills and school safety

The National Association of School Psychologists and the National Association of School Resource Officers have offered guidance on such drills. Their report, “Best Practice Considerations for Schools in Active Shooter and Other Armed Assailant Drills,” recommends procedures for safe and effective drills.

Excerpted from “Why schools should drop unannounced active-shooter drills” in District Administration magazine. Read the full article.

Download the Everytown report: The Impact of School Safety Drills for Active Shootings.

Source: District Administration | Why schools should drop unannounced active-shooter drills, https://districtadministration.com/active-shooter-drills-gun-violence-cause-trauma-school-safety | © 2020. District Administration

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