As active shooter drills become more common in schools, there’s debate over what type of drill is best. Do hyper realistic drills better prepare students, or are they unnecessarily traumatizing? Join students from PBS NewsHour’s student reporting labs as they investigate which kind of drills are most effective.

This is a special collab with PBS Newshour Student Reporting Labs, co-produced with students from Northview High School in Covina, California.

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What are active shooter drills?

Active shooter drills are drills where students, teachers, staff and law enforcement practice what to do in case of a shooter on campus.

What are the different types of active shooter drills?

There isn’t one set national standard for active shooter drills. They can range from very realistic where there’s fake gunshots and fake blood to simple lockdown drills where teachers lock their doors and explain to students what they should do in the event of an active shooter. There’s also the run, hide, fight drill that teaches distraction techniques like throwing things at the shooter if they are unable to run or hide.

Do active shooter drills affect mental health?

Drills that are very realistic that trick students and teachers into thinking there’s an actual shooter can be very traumatizing. The Association of School Psychologists and the Association of School Safety Officials have created a list of best practices schools can use when designing active shooter drills as a way to protect students’ mental health.

SOURCES:

More Than 220,000 Students Have Experienced Gun Violence at School Since Columbine

Safety and Security: Dangers of Active Shooter Training Programs

How Active Shooter Drills Became a Big (and Possibly Traumatizing) Business

Best Practice Considerations for Schools in Active Shooter and Other Armed Assailant Drills

Do Active Shooter Drills Do More Harm than Good? 8 February,2019Lauren Farrar

  • Charles Medinger

    I believe that it’s best to have a conversation with your students first and walk through the drill as well. I think it’s a bit overboard to have all of the actors and fake blood, that’s too much because some of the students/teachers may respond to that situation realistically (violently) not realizing it’s a drill in an effort to stop what’s actually happening.

Author

Lauren Farrar

Lauren has a background in biology, education, and filmmaking. She has had the privilege to work on a diverse array of educational endeavors and is currently a producer for KQED Learning's YouTube series Above the Noise. Lauren's career has taken her to the deepest parts of the ocean to film deep sea hydrothermal vents for classroom webcasts, into the pool to film synchronized swimmers to teach about the pH scale, and on roller coasters to create a video about activation energy. And, she’s done it all for the sake of education. Lauren loves communicating science! Follow her on twitter @LFarrarAtWork

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