Teach­ers: Shooter drills ter­rify stu­dents

Antelope Valley Press - - NEWS - By PAT EA­TON-ROBB

HART­FORD, Conn. — The na­tion’s two largest teach­ers unions want schools to re­vise or elim­i­nate ac­tive shooter drills, as­sert­ing Tues­day that they can harm stu­dents’ men­tal health and that there are bet­ter ways to pre­pare for the pos­si­bil­ity of a school shoot­ing.

The Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers and Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion joined with the ad­vo­cacy group Every­town for Gun Safety Sup­port Fund in call­ing for an end to unan­nounced drills or drills that sim­u­late gun vi­o­lence.

“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,” said Lily Eskelsen Gar­cia, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion. “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 re­leased Tues­day rec­om­mends schools con­cen­trate on train­ing teach­ers to re­spond to an ac­tive shooter in­ci­dent rather than drilling stu­dents.

It also is­sued guide­lines for schools that de­cide to use drills. Those in­clude never sim­u­lat­ing an ac­tual shoot­ing; giv­ing par­ents, ed­u­ca­tors and stu­dents ad­vance no­tice of any drill; work­ing with men­tal health of­fi­cials to cre­ate age-ap­pro­pri­ate and trauma-in­formed drills; and track­ing the ef­fects of drills.

About 95% of schools drilled stu­dents on lock­down pro­ce­dures in the 2015-16 school year, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by the Na­tional Cen­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion Statis­tics.

“In In­di­ana they were shoot­ing teach­ers with rub­ber pel­lets so they would feel the adren­a­line of what a school shoot­ing would feel like,” said Shan­non Watts, founder of Moms De­mand Ac­tion, which is part of Every­town. “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.”

Jean-Paul Guil­bault, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Alice Train­ing In­sti­tute, which runs ac­tive shooter drills, said they are ef­fec­tive when done ap­pro­pri­ately. He said his com­pany never runs sur­prise drills but be­lieves that sim­u­lat­ing an event is the best way to pre­pare for one “and al­low stu­dents to prac­tice their op­tions, whether that be lock­down or evac­u­a­tion.”

“Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent study con­ducted by The U.S. Se­cret Ser­vice, most school shoot­ings last for two min­utes or less, and nearly half of the events stud­ied ended within one minute,” he said in a writ­ten state­ment. “That means it is up to us to keep our­selves safe for those sec­onds that will feel as slow as a life­time. We drill so ev­ery­one has a plan when faced with dan­ger, to give peo­ple a chance at sur­vival.”

But Abby Cle­ments, who was teach­ing sec­ond grade at the Sandy Hook school in New­town when a gun­man killed 26 peo­ple in 2012, said she doesn’t be­lieve a drill would have saved lives there.

“Our stu­dents knew what to do,” said Cle­ments, who now teaches at an­other ele­men­tary school in town. “We taught them what to do in an emer­gency. We knew evac­u­a­tion routes and where a safe spot was in the room, where no­body could see in­side. But fright­en­ing stu­dents with some type of ac­tive drill, I think that is bar­baric. There is no way you could pos­si­bly be pre­pared for the in­fi­nite num­ber of ways that a shoot­ing could go down with these weapons of war.”

Cle­ments, an ac­tive mem­ber of Moms De­mand Ac­tion, said it breaks her heart when she hears sto­ries like the one about a lit­tle girl who refused to wear light-up shoes af­ter a drill, be­cause she was told it could make her an eas­ier tar­get.

“I’ve got kids at the ele­men­tary school level who tell me they have to keep a cell phone on them at all times, just in case,” she said. “It should not be like that.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

Stu­dents are led out of school as mem­bers of the Foun­tain Po­lice Depart­ment take part in a 2017 Ac­tive Shooter Re­sponse Train­ing ex­er­cise in Foun­tain, Colo. The na­tion’s two largest teach­ers unions want schools to re­vise or elim­i­nate ac­tive shooter drills, as­sert­ing Tues­day that they can harm stu­dents’ men­tal health and that there are bet­ter ways to pre­pare for the pos­si­bil­ity of a school shoot­ing.

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