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Teachers unions say active shooter drills traumatize children

They're in good company

Photo by Derek Davis/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

A report from the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association says that active shooter drills are traumatizing children.

The organizations are calling for schools to abolish the practice, saying it does more harm than good.

What are the details?

The report, which was compiled in part by Everytown for Gun Safety and released Tuesday, insists that such safety drills negatively impact students' mental health.

The report suggests that better ways of preparing students for active shooter situations include training teachers how to respond to a threat rather than putting it upon students to engage in drills.

Lilly Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, said that such traumas are not healthy for students.

“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," she 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."

The report suggests that schools never simulate a shooting under any circumstances. The guidelines also include giving parents, students, and educators a heads-up on any type of drill.

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said the drills that have taken place at schools across the country are very graphic in nature.

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

At least 95% of schools participated in a form of lockdown or active shooter drill during the 2015-16 academic year according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

What else?

In November, a Princeton University professor said that schools are safe enough without having to expose students to high-tension, adrenaline-fueled active shooter drills. Sociology professor Patrick Sharkey issued remarks on Twitter condemning the practice of active shooter drills.

"Our nation has decided to carry out a policy — lockdown drills for students — that will probably not help one single student and will periodically traumatize millions of students," Sharkey wrote. "We've done so at a time when schools are safer than they've been in decades."

Melissa Reeves, a professor at Winthrop University as well as former president of the National Association of School Psychologists, added, "[T]he analogy that I use is we don't light a fire in the hallway to practice fire drills. When we're teaching stranger danger, we don't put a child on a street corner and have someone grab them and scare them. We are able to teach these things through ways where we talk them through it and then we walk them through it and they respond accordingly."

One last thing…
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