Everytown for Gun Safety has joined with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) to recommend that schools stop performing drills to prepare for “active shooter” incidents on campus.
The anti-gun group cites the lack of evidence for the efficacy of these drills along with the potential for the drills to traumatize students.
“Given growing concern among parents, students, educators, and medical professionals about the impact that active shooter drills can have on student development, Everytown, AFT, and NEA do not recommend these drills for students and believe schools should carefully consider these impacts before conducting live drills that involve students and educators,” the group states on its website.
In its report, Everytown admits that there isn’t enough research to prove or disprove how well active shooter drills prepare students for real-life situations. Instead, they cite anecdotal evidence from media reports to suggest that these drills are “counter-productive” because they may cause “distress and sometimes lasting trauma” in students and educators.
The report’s authors cite Melissa Reeves, former president of the National Association of School Psychologists, who 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.”
Rather than perform active shooter drills, Everytown recommends that schools support policies that “prevent active shooter incidents from happening in the first place.”
These include “threat assessment programs” (read: red flag laws), “access to mental health professionals,” “collaborating with law enforcement,” and “engaging the community to ensure guns are not easily accessible” (read: gun control).
For schools that insist on implementing “reactive” measures to minimize the damage of mass murderers, Everytown has six recommendations:
- Drills should not include simulations that mimic or appear to be an actual shooting incident;
- Sufficient information and notification must be provided to parents or guardians in advance about the dates, content, and tone of any drills for students;
- Drills should be announced to students and educators prior to the start of any drill;
- Drill content must be created by a team including administrators, teachers, school-based mental health professionals, and law enforcement and be age and developmentally appropriate. The content should incorporate student input;
- Drills should be coupled with trauma-informed approaches to directly address students’ well-being as standard practice; and
- Information about the efficacy and effects of the drills should be tracked by schools, including symptoms and indications of trauma (e.g., bad dreams, fear of coming to school, asthma attacks, increased antidepressant prescriptions) so drill content can be reevaluated if students and/or educators are exhibiting signs of trauma.
The report concludes with a call for schools to support gun control measures.
“Finally, comprehensive school safety plans must involve a proactive effort to enact meaningful gun violence prevention policies to enable intervention before a prospective shooter can get their hands on a gun,” the report states, again contrasting “reactive” school safety measures with “proactive” gun control policies. “These policies include the implementation of background checks, Extreme Risk laws, and secure gun storage laws and awareness campaigns.”