Do “active shooter” drills in schools prepare children for a potential threat, or frighten and potentially scar them long term? Experts think it may be the latter, and have called for reform.
In a policy statement released earlier this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warned about the potential psychological damage children could suffer from participating in active shooter drills. The AAP went on to outline some more specific guidelines they recommend to ensure that the drills, which have become commonplace at so many schools throughout the nation, aren’t actually inflicting emotional distress on the students they’re trying to protect.
The drills that are most concerning to the AAP are those that involve the simulation of an active shooting event. These can include the use of real weapons, gunfire, and makeup that simulates blood and gunshot wounds. Some research has found that not only are these drills traumatic to some students, but they are also not proving effective.
Safe Havens International, a non-profit K12 school safety center found that even teachers who had been through simulation drills did not benefit. “On average, they misjudged almost twice as many critical action steps as educators who had not received the training and used more commonsense actions,” they stated.
“The idea isn’t to create the most realistic drill possible. We want kids and adults to learn what do you when you’re confronted with something,” Melissa Brymer, Ph.D., Psy.D. Director, Terrorism & Disaster Program UCLA/Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress tells Parentology.
Brymer uses routine school fire drills as a prime example. Throughout the country, fire drills are conducted on a regular basis and teachers and students are taught what steps they can take to keep themselves safe, but at no point does anyone actually set a fire to conduct these drills. There are general protocols and guidelines in place. Now, the AAP along with other organizations like the National Association of School Psychologists and The National Child Traumatic Stress Network are calling for some similar guidelines when it comes to active shooter drills.
The AAP outlined eleven recommendations. They suggest that drills should only include students when it directly benefits them. Students should not be used in drills that are meant for faculty and staff. The AAP also states that all parents should have to give their consent before their child can participate in any kind of active shooter drill. Along those lines, they recommend that the drills be openly scheduled so that parents and students know what to expect.
Dr. Brymer agrees. “When drills are announced, even if it’s within that day, you allow parents to support their kids, [especially] if their kids tend to be anxious. We can make sure educators are in the building to provide support to those kids who might have had recent trauma or losses to ensure they can get through the exercise.”
The goal of active shooter drills is to prepare teachers and students in the event of an emergency, not to incite panic and anxiety. The guidelines put out by the AAP are meant to help schools design drills that will prepare kids and keep them safe without creating distress for faculty, parents and students.
Do Schools Active Shooter Drills Prepare or Frighten — Sources
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