Teachers Unions Come Out in Opposition to Active Shooter Drills

OPINION | This article contains political commentary which reflects the author's opinion.

The Daily Wire is reporting that the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) have joined with Everytown for Gun Safety (Everytown) in opposition of active shooter drills.

Finally, some pushback on this total insanity!

Everytown has released a report about the drills, in which they state,

Mental health professionals have begun warning about the effect of these drills on students’ well-being and about the possible short and long-term consequences on school performance and physical and mental health.” They add, “Our organizations do not recommend training for students and firmly believe that schools must be very mindful of the impact of active shooter drills that involve students and take that into consideration when designing such programs and determining whether to include students.

They argue there is very little evidence that these drills are effective, even though 40 states require such drills.

While there is almost no research affirming the value of these drills for preventing school shootings or protecting the school community when shootings do occur, stories abound in the media of incidents where students, educators, and staff have experienced distress and sometimes lasting trauma as a result of active shooter drills.

Interestingly, the groups warn that these drills might make a school shooting even more dangerous.  That is because almost all school shooters are students.  Providing the shooter with training on the response could have disastrous consequences.

The president of the NEA, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, warns of the consequences of the drills.

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. 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.

Watch this video featuring a drill in a 4th grade classroom.

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I must admit I feel strange, because I cannot believe I am actually agreeing with the NEA and AFT.  I despise active shooter drills and fundamentally disagree with exposing young children to this worry.

My son and daughter go through these drills at their school on a regular basis.  Hearing my kindergartner and first grader talk about their “bad guy” drills is heart-wrenching.  My son has reported that his teacher instructed him to hide in his cubby.  My daughter then chimed in and said her teacher said not to go in her cubby because if the bad guy finds her, she will be trapped.  My daughter explained to me that if she is in the bathroom, she has to stand up on the toilet, so the bad guy doesn’t see she is in the stall.  My son has described moving furniture to block the door and also his plan to use a pencil to poke the eyes of the bad guy.

These are five and six-year-olds, people!

As far as kids experiencing trauma, that certainly rings true to our experience.  My son has reported that a boy in his class was crying for his mom during a recent drill.

The fact is that school shootings are EXTREMELY rare.  Is it worth traumatizing millions of children for something that is not even proven to help?  We need to let kids be kids.  We, as a society, should not burden them with these adult concerns.  The only people who should be trained on how to respond to a school shooter are the teachers and administrators.

At this point, it seems the only people benefitting from this training are the companies selling their programs to school districts across America.

Everytown, AFT, and NEA remain opposed to drills.  However, if schools do conduct drills, they recommend the following:

1. Drills should not include simulations that mimic an actual incident;

2. Parents should have advance notice of drills;

3. Drills should be announced to students and educators prior to the start;

4. Schools should create age and developmentally appropriate drill content with the involvement of school personnel, including school-based mental health professionals;

5. Schools should couple drills with trauma-informed approaches to address students’ well-being; and

6. Track data about the efficacy and effects of drills.