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The Controversies Over School Shooting Drills

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There is no question that the number of shootings in the United States has risen in the past years. According to CBS news, there have been more than 280 mass shootings in 2019 so far, 22 of them being at schools.

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In discussions of school shooting drills, one controversial issue has been whether the drills are a way to keep students safe, or does it put them in danger. On one hand, Erika Christakis, author of “Active-shooter Drills are Tragically Misguided,” argues that school shooting drills are not beneficial to students. On the other hand, John Iannarelli, author of “Schools Need Active-Shooter Drills,” states that these drills are a necessity and can only help the students. My view is that the school shooting drills are not beneficial for the students in case of an emergency.

My highschool being only a twenty minute drive from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, one of the schools that unfortunately did experience an active-shooter, allows for me to truly understand the severity of the situation. Young students grade k-12 could be placed in extremely dangerous situations and a school shooting drill is something that could be stressful.

What is much less clear than school shooting drills being a stressful situation is what to do about them. Christakis states, “In the 2015–16 school year, 95 percent of public schools ran lockdown drills, according to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics.” I am one of the students who took place in these drills and the teacher had students sit there silently in the dark. All the kids took it as time off from the class and just talked. Not one person took these drills seriously which means that they would not be prepared to defend themselves if the event ever occurred.

As someone who was once a student in k-12, I understand the appeal of teaching a child to protect themselves in case of an emergency. However, most times, the perpetrator either attends or attended the school they intend to attack. According to the New York Times, the topmost motives of attackers were: bullying/persecution/threatened (75%) and revenge (61%), while 54% reported having numerous reasons. Due to the fact that most shooters attend or have attended the school they plan to attack, it could put other students at risk to enforce the drills. These drills would allow for the shooter to know the plan, where the students are trying to escape to, how they plan to fight, and where most are hiding. Practicing these drills put students more at risk for both physical repercussions and psychological.

A handful of schools surprise their students with the active shooter drills and this typically stuns the students. With these surprise drills, students become stressed and according to science and Christakis, “persistent stress, alters the architecture of the growing brain, putting children at increased risk for a host of medical and psychological conditions over their lifetime.” There was a student in North Carolina that wrote a farewell letter to his parents during one of these drills really thinking that he will survive the day. This is a lot of pressure to put on children, and can cause a plethora of psychological issues to surface, one being anxiety. I am personally diagnosed with generalized anxiety and I can attest to the fact that this is not easy to live with. I live to question all of my daily choices, one of them including if I even chose the right food to eat. To have anxiety after such a traumatic event, even if it is just a drill, will cause for students to truly question their daily choices and be more frightened if there was an active shooter at their school, all because of the one traumatizing drill.

One prominent voice on the other side of this issue is Iannarelli. He states, “In an active-shooter situation they need to be prepared to do more, including barricading themselves in a classroom until help arrives. In a worst-case scenario, they need to be prepared to fight back.” Iannarelli fights for the “run, hide, fight” approach which allows for a student to learn where to run to in case of an emergency, where to hide, and how to fight. This is important because it teaches the students a plan. I agree that teaching a student how to fight is important, however, there is no promise that they will fight the same way that they learn to. Under stress, people tend to react differently than how they were originally taught to. Iannerelli also argues that students knowing how to use their phone to document the dreadful event is good and could only help law enforcement. Yes, it may help catch the perpetrator, but, it would be utterly disrespectful to those families who have to see their child’s limp body surface online.

My own experience with the lockdown drills has demonstrated that they are not exactly helpful in a real situation. I had friends who were shot at during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting. My best friend’s cousin passed away in that shooting, and the president of their grade was my childhood friend who had to speak publicly about this horrific event. I know that schools can prepare their students for shootings, however, when placed in the situation everyone’s actions will most likely change.

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There is no predicting a school shooting and a drill will not help students in the way they are intended to. It is more harmful to the students than helpful. If the shooter attends or has ever attended the school, these drills will reveal the plan and because of this, harm the student. I believe that the plan should just be known by the teacher and expressed to the students if the event were to ever occur.

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The Controversies Over School Shooting Drills. (2020, October 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 28, 2023, from
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