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School Lockdown Drills: Do They Do More Harm Than Good?

Lockdown drills have been a way of life for U.S. children for more than a decade, The Trace reports. According to The Department of Education, nearly 98 percent of U.S. public schools had at least one lockdown drill in the 2019-2020 year. Some proponents say drills can save lives; others question if the intense 'drilling' approach does more harm than good. Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Tx., and Oxford High School in Michigan held lockdown drills, but gunmen still caused deaths and injuries. Lockdown drills can be difficult for all involved, especially for children who have experienced trauma outside of school. Hidalgo County, Tx., District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez said "I think we have to be careful that we don't re-victimize the victims." Schools continue to embrace a proactive approach for active shooter situations, including barricading themselves in rooms or even confronting shooters directly. The ALICE Training Institute has instructed 5,548 school districts on dealing with an active shooter situation, but their methods have come under scrutiny because of little evidence their approach works. A handful of states, including Illinois and Washington, have passed laws prohibiting lockdown drills that include active shooter situations.


Public schools have begun conducting active shooter drills since the 1999 Columbine High School shooting. After the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, more schools started to participate. In 2005-2006, 40 percent of public schools held lockdown drills. A decade later, 95 percent of schools had them. Forty-one states and Washington, D.C., require public schools to conduct at least one lockdown for students during the school year. Some states require a single armed-intruder drill a year, while others have one per semester, every other month, or even monthly. Some drills involve administrators dressing up as attackers, simulated gunfire, fake blood, and police and emergency personnel participation. There is no federal standard, which creates uncertainty among school safety experts and parents. Despite their downsides, some experts say that lockdown drills have a net positive effect. Former FBI agent David Morgan said teaching personal safety to children is important, because "many kids are just not aware of the threats that are out there."

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