ART BY SHIRLEEN KWONG
‘Pow! Pow!’ This is not a drill…
10 years. 180 school shootings. 356 victims.
Imagine sending a goodbye text to your loved ones and hearing the sound of gunshots as you are walking to class. For schools practicing a new form of emergency preparation—active shooter drills—this is the stark reality that is painted in the minds of parents and administrators alike.
In light of the Parkland shooting and Inskip Elementary School shooting, rampant fears have emerged in the form of tougher protocol for guns and shooting preparedness. Active-shooter drills came into existence after the Columbine massacre in 1999.
The drills themselves range from barricading students within a designated room to using rubber pellet guns and fake blood to create adrenaline. National headlines were made when teachers complained that they were not informed that the lockdown was even a drill: causing more chaos to ensue in the process. Pure insanity.
Essentially, these active shooter drills pile millions of tax dollars towards traumatizing the student and faculty bodies in schools while offering little proof that they actually work.
The likelihood of a public school student being killed by a gun in school is less than 1 in 614 million. Yet, 4.1 million students—220,000 of which included children as young as 3 in preschool or kindergarten—participated in at least one lockdown in the 2017-2018 academic year.
However, in 2018, 57% of teens told researchers they worry about a shooting happening at their school. A Pew Research Center study found that a slightly higher percentage of parents of teenagers, 63%, fear a shooting at their child’s school.
Indeed, many districts have outdated, heavy-handed drill protocols that use students and staff as guinea pigs to test “response readiness.”
However, these active shooter drills in schools are hurting more than helping.
In fact, these drills actually have the potential to create future trauma all while making students feel less safe at school. Some lockdowns may produce anxiety, stress, and traumatic symptoms in some students or staff, as well as loss of instructional time.
This danger grazes the burliest coaches to the most vulnerable members in a school: those with disabilities.
During a highly stressful situation precipitating the drill, it can be difficult to comprehend instructions or even forget how to breathe. Faculty and students facing previous trauma in their lives can be pulled into a rabbit hole of misery at the sound of a bullet being holstered. If these drills are truly in the best interest of the school, every student and faculties well being should be considered.
Moreover, K-12 schools could be preyed upon by companies who believe that they can make money off of the fear that superintendents and parents feel.
This leads to school funding being dedicated to these drills or hiring police officers to come on campus to act out the scene.
Looking at the big picture, however, the $3 billion being spent per year on school security and drills could be going towards hiring counselors, nurses, and teachers. Today 32% of teenagers have anxiety disorders and 22% suffer from mental disorders. The flurry that comes with preparing for these drills takes attention away from programs like student wellness centers that could be implemented to prevent these shootings from happening in the first place
The most effective solution is just to continue lock down drills with greater efficiency. Schools should not be over emphasizing remote or unlikely dangers. However, focusing on basic safety and providing counselor support to students will prevent these shooters from blossoming in the first place.
We don’t light a fire in the hallways during a fire drill. Active shooter drills are like a double edged sword. Handling the situation carefully and considering the unique situations of its student body will allow schools to address the root of the problem. However, attacking the problem with bare-bones knowledge of the situation is not only a waste of money, but a traumatic waste of time as well. No drill is perfect, but real guns, much less plastic guns, hold no place inside of a school: no matter the reason.