Doctors Want To Put A Stop To Traumatic Active Shooter Drills In Schools

by Madison Vanderberg
Kindergarten students lie on the floor during a classroom lockdown drill February 18, 2003 in Oahu, ...
Phil Mislinski/Getty

The American Academy of Pediatrics calls for a reform on “active shooter drills” in schools

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the debate over whether or not it’s safe to send our nation’s children back to school eclipsed the biggest debate of the pre-coronavirus era: whether or not schools are safe from active shooter situations. On Monday, August 24, 2020, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) came out against high-intensity active shooter drills, citing their ability to cause more trauma in children amid an absence of research on whether or not they are effective.

According to the Official Journal Of The American Academy of Pediatrics, they are only advocating for the calmest drills moving forward and citing evidence that “some districts utilize high-intensity active shooter drills that involve real weapons, gunfire or blanks; theatrical makeup to give a realistic image of blood or gunshot wounds; predatory and aggressive acting by an individual posing to be the shooter; or other means to simulate an actual attack.” The AAP even added that in some schools, “students and staff are deceived into believing they are responding to an actual active shooter event, presumably to create an even more realistic experience for participants.”

Not only are some drills traumatic events in and of themselves, but the culture of active shooter drills “may contribute to a distorted sense of risk in children and perspective that adults and peers need to be viewed as potential killers,” and “increase children’s anxiety and fear that the world is a threatening place.”

So if schools are reopening and doctors want traumatic active shooter drills off the table, what does the AAP suggest instead? The AAP states that more research (and funding for that research) is needed on the subject, but they made several suggestions as to how to conduct these drills in the future and among them is considering whether students even need to participate or if teachers and school personnel can run their own safety drills separately. They also suggest discontinuing names like “active shooter drills” and treating the situation calmly like fire drills.

“Active shooter drills should be conducted as fire drills are generally conducted (without simulation of there being an active fire) using a well-discussed, calm approach to the safe movement of students and staff in the school building. In general, adults should avoid referencing these drills with names that may engender further distress, such as calling them ‘active shooter drills’; instead, terms such as ‘lockdown,’ ‘shelter in place,’ or ‘safety drills’ are preferable,” the AAP states.

AAP News has an overview on the subject, but for more specific measures on how to reform these types of drills in schools, check out the organization’s official journal here.