Shooter drills frightening practice for school shooting realities

Virginia Tech. Columbine High School. Berrendo Middle School. Sandy Hook Elementary School. Campuses across the nation affected by school shootings. As news reports continue to air the latest attacks, schools are desperate for a way to keep their students safe.

smouse“For students across the country, lockdowns have become a fixture of the school day, the duck-and-cover drills for a generation growing up in the shadow of Columbine High School in Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut,” Jack Healy of The New York Times wrote.

In an effort to diminish this growing fear, schools are looking to a new type of drill: simulations. Cary-Grove High School in Illinois recently implemented a “Code Red” drill, sending students under lockdown as unknown faculty shoot blanks in the hallway

The goal is to develop “some familiarity with the sound of gunfire,” Principal Jay Sargeant said in a letter to parents.

In Kansas, parent Tina Steffensmeier recalls her first-grade son’s experience during a shooter drill, practicing hiding in cubbies as police officers walked through the campus. “How sad it is that our kids have to deal with this,” Steffensmeier told The New York Times.

Some parents feel these simulations are over-the-top and unnecessarily scaring students. The image of an armed individual lurking the hallways and shooting blanks is emotionally scarring, especially for younger students.

“They run fire drills all the time, but they don’t run up and down the hallway with a flamethrower,” parent Sharon Miller told Huffington Post.

While this trend frightens the nations, change seems to be a foreign concept. A Wikipedia page is dedicated to recording the school shootings suffered since the 18th century, a shocking record of repeating history.

These drills may seem extreme, but at least they are addressing the real issue: Our nation has a gun problem. Schools, once deemed a safe zone, are now plagued by the danger of shooters of all ages.

These drills are exposing the growing violent outbursts our youth continue to suffer. Easy access to a weapon and an immature mental capacity to deal with anger result in a cause for a shooting, a truth many ignore.

However, exposing students to real-life scenarios of possible attacks is not quite the gentlest approach. These drills especially influence elementary students, adding an extra weight of worry to recess.

“In order to create long-term change, each of us needs to find our own ways of helping to address the underlying issues that lead to violence in schools and in our communities.” Kidpower Founder and Executive Director Irene van der Zande said in an article addressing violence in schools.

As taboo as students getting hurt in a place of education once was, the reality of violence on-campus is more real than ever. By taking steps to reduce aggression in our students, in our classrooms and in our surrounding communities, drills like these won’t be a consideration.

Reach the columnist at rsmouse@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @BeccaSmouse