Active shooter drills raising concern among parents
A new report shows "active shooter drills" might be doing more harm than good. Today, 95% of schools participate in drills that are traumatizing students.
Cheryl knew something was wrong last year when her 5-year-old daughter Ramona came home from kindergarten. She had a drawing in her backpack that was much different than the rainbows and unicorns she usually sketches.
"And she wrote in her 5-year-old scrawl across the top, 'This girl looks like she's going to die," said Cheryl.
Cheryl said this was the first time she heard about the lockdown drill where they had to hide under their desks.
"And she cried some more and paused and then said, 'And is this because a bad person with a gun is gonna come and shoot at me in my classroom?" Cheryl said.
Her concerns are echoed by a new report published by the nation's two largest teachers unions and the gun-control advocacy group, "Everytown for Gun Safety."
They say the drills have limited research supporting their effectiveness.
"But there is research that shows that they cause depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, worsening school performance. So we have to decide as a country, are we doing more harm than good?" Shannon Watts, founder of "Moms Demand Action for Guns Sense" said.
High school student Ryan Pascal says her first drill was unnannounced, which created confusion among classmates.
"I think that was probably the scariest part. Just the not knowing what was happening," Ryan said.
Ryan believes the school should inform students before conducting a drill.
"There should never be an instance where a student thinks that their life is in danger when it actually isn't," Ryan said.
The new report recommends schools give families advance notice of any drills. They also say they should avoid life-like simulations. Instead, they believe schools should focus on preventing gun violence by offering mental health programs and educating about safe firearm storage.
"If we spend our time and attention on these drills, we are taking away our attention and time and efforts into preventing gun violence from happening at schools," Jackie Pascal, Ryan's mom, said.
However, some school security experts argue these drills are necessary.
"You know, lives are at stake. So we need to provide them with more options than just to hide." Joe Deedon, president of Sea*Tac Consulting, said.
Deedon's firm trains students as young as 6th grade how to respond to active shooters. In some scenarios, that includes trying to take down the gunman as a last resort. He says the drills are always announced in advance, and mental health counselors are onsite.
"If we can save one life in one of these school shootings, then I'd say it's well worth it and well effective," said Deedon.
However, critics argue drills can go too far. Jackson and Duncan, 11-years-old, say their drills involve people impersonating shooters, rattle classroom doors, and even douse students in fake blood.
"They sent the staff out to pretend to be an intruder, so they would bang on the doors," Jackson said.
Their mom, Mia, says it's proof something needs to change.
"I didn't know about it, and I feel that someone took that right away from me as their parent to protect them. Let's work towards making school a safe environment for our kids again, where they feel secure," Jackson said.
Many states require active shooter drills in school, but there are no national standards for what they should encompass.
Meanwhile, studies show that in most school shootings, the gunman is a student or former student, meaning they've probably been through these drills and know what to expect.
Experts say your child is more likely to be a victim of gun violence on the street, or in their own home, than in their school.