Do shooting drills traumatize kids?
Long before an ex-student opened fire on his former classmates in Parkland, Florida, many school districts conducted regular shooting drills — exercises that sometimes included simulated gunfire and blood and often happened with no warning that the attack wasn’t real.
The drills began taking shape after the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. But 20 years later, parents are increasingly questioning elements of the practice, including whether the drills traumatize kids.
April Sullivan was pleasantly surprised by an “I love you, Mom” text from her daughter last May, even though she knew the eighth-grader wasn’t supposed to be using her cellphone during school in Short Pump, Virginia. But she did not know that her child sent it while supposedly hiding from an intruder. The girl didn’t know the “code blue” alert was a drill.
“To find out later she sent that text because she was in fear for her life did not sit well with me,” Sullivan said.
Henrico County Public Schools in Virginia have since changed the way they conduct drills, making clear at the start that the events are not real and notifying parents as the drill begins or right after, district spokesman Andy Jenks said.