TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Some teachers’ unions and gun safety groups are asking schools to reconsider involving students in lock down and active shooter drills.
The drills have become more common over the last few years following an influx of emergency situations at schools across the U.S. The groups question the impact that unannounced drills have on students.
Topeka Public Schools Police Chief Ron Brown regularly oversees these drills. He says that while the drills can sometimes be a surprise to students, they are not meant to scare them.
“We work very hard to make them understand that, while it’s a surprise and it’s not pre-announced, it is a drill,” said Chief Brown.
He adds that the drills help students learn what to do in emergency situations before they are in an actual emergency.
“We’ve practiced fire drills for years, we’ve practiced tornado drills for years, unfortunately in this day and age we need to do active shooter drills and so the intent and purpose there is simply to better prepare them,” Chief Brown added.
The National Education Association along with American Federation of Teachers, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, are asking states to rethink involving students in the active shooter drills saying it can cause trauma and unnecessary panic for the kids. The Kansas National Education Association says they understand students need to be prepared, but more needs to be done to prevent guns from being brought into schools to begin with.
“We’ve kind of failed our students from the get-go if our solution to the gun crisis is active shooter drills and having to hide in a corner and pray and make phone calls,” said Marcus Baltzell, Director of Communications with the Kansas National Education Association.
Chief Brown said there have been instances when an unannounced lockdown drill led to students calling or texting their family members thinking it was a real emergency situation. He said the school district is always quick to alert students, staff, and the community of the drills.
The Kansas State Department of Education is working to bring more structure to these mandatory drills by releasing a checklist to schools. The checklist will teach specific survival skills during the drills. For example, shelter in place, evacuate, basic safety procedures, among other items.
“They shouldn’t be scaring anybody. They should be teaching a drill because, most of the time, they will be outside of the school when they need to use these skills,” said Susan McMahan, Director of the Safe and Secure Schools Unit at the Kansas State Department of Education.
The checklists to be used during drills will begin to be implemented in schools by spring of this year. All schools are expected to have the checklist by next school year.
The U.S. Government officially launched schoolsafety.gov this morning. The website has further information on active shooter drills.