Gun safety group asking schools to reconsider active shooter drills

BOSTON — The gun safety group founded after the Sandy Hook shooting is teaming up with two of the largest teachers unions in the state to ask schools to reconsider active shooter drills.

It comes after a recent uptick in drills across the country, and the reports that they traumatize kids.

“There’s an announcement on the microphone that the school’s in lockdown, or shelter in place. The students have to rush through a corner of the classroom, we cram in and we sit in silence,” said Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy.

“And then, we’re supposed to resume business as usual, everybody back to reading,” Najimy added.

Najimy has been in the classroom for 30 years, and president of the Massachusetts teachers’ union for two.

She said the uptick in active shooter drills in school traumatize students and staff.

“It sets kids off for the rest of the day. You’re sitting in silence. You know it’s not real, but just the possibility enters their minds and it’s frightening,” Najimy said.

MORE: Mass. public schools conduct active shooter drills amid lack of state guidelines

It’s why national advocates Everytown for Gun Safety and two of the country’s largest teachers’ unions are calling on school districts to re-think conducting active shooter drills.

In a report released Tuesday, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association made it clear: “(We) do not recommend these drills for students.”

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 2005-2006, 40 percent of the schools in the U.S. conducted active shooter drills. Ten years later, that number jumped to 95 percent.

Quiana Agbai is a volunteer with Everytown’s Massachusetts chapter, Moms Demand Action.

“As a parent, we’re starting to see the effects that come home with the kids who go through these drills,” Agbai said.

Researchers say there’s very little evidence to determine the effectiveness of these drills.

And Boston 25 investigates found there are no state guidelines as to how to conduct them.

“So, should we still be doing them? No, we need to be looking at a more systemic solution that actually addresses the root causes," Najimy said.

The Alice Training Center says the average active shooter incident lasts less than 2 minutes, and that’s not enough time to wait for a police response:

When done appropriately, drills that simulate an event and allow students to practice their options, whether that be lockdown or evacuation, are the most effective."

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Everytown and the unions suggest if districts do conduct drills, they shouldn’t be too close to the real thing, notify parents, no surprises, keep them age-appropriate, check in with the kids, and track if they work.

“I think they do serve a purpose, but I think we have to be careful in how they’re being structured," Agbai said.