“While most states require security drills up to three times a year, a new law in New Jersey says all schools must hold them once a month,” nj.com reports. “In addition to monthly fire drills.” And I might add, actual lockdowns. Every day, I see stories of school lockdowns. Like, say, this one [via pittsburghlive.com]: “A 12-year-old boy pointed fake guns at the Clairton Education Center on Wednesday, prompting school officials to lock down the campus for nearly two hours.” While schools are far more likely to face an active shooter than a fire, I have some problems with lockdowns and lockdown drills . . .

1. Urgency

In the boy who cried wolf , the villagers eventually ignore the boy. The wolf eats the two-legged attention-seeker. The villagers shake their heads, appoint someone to clean up the mess and return to their Wii fit games. Substitute shooter for wolf, and everybody dies. You NEED administrators, teachers and students to feel a frisson of fear to get moving. And scan for possible threats. When a school holds too many lockdown drills, participants get lethargic.

2. Strategy

While I understand the need to gather children in “safe rooms,” classrooms are not safe rooms. In the majority of cases, the doors are easily breached. Assembling kids in one space is extremely efficient—for the shooter. Also, the lockdown response is not situationally dependent. You’re teaching caregivers to follow ONE strategy, which may not apply. What if there’s a shooter between the class and the classroom (i.e. “safety”)?

3. Passivity

Lockdown drills teach students to cower in the face of violence. In an actual event, children might be better advised to run, disperse, hide or, yes, attack. They should at least know how to find cover and concealment (and the difference between the two), so that they can find it for themselves and others. Again, I don’t think there’s one answer. Options—including individual initiative—save lives. For example, what if a group of students get separated from the teacher, or the teacher gets taken out? What then?

4. Teacher training

If we are going to consider an active shooter as a realistic threat—and clearly we have—teachers need to be trained in self-defense. I can see where parents wouldn’t want their teachers packing heat, but the men and women protecting our children should have some basic hand combat skills, regular force-on-force training and location-based defense planning. That would be a far better use of time than seven more lockdown drills.

5. Simulation

Speaking of force-on-force training, nothing beats full-on simulation. Granted, a fake active shooter drill could traumatize some children. So what? The only way administrators, teachers, students and first responders can adequately prepare for this nightmare is to run a simulation. Which would refine strategy AND get everyone to pay attention.

8 Responses to Five Problems with Active Shooter Lockdown Drills

  1. I'd have to do some digging but I think the school shooting incidents that had the best outcomes all had someone taking the initiative and attacking the shooter. In Springfield Oregon a youth who was familiar with firearms attacked Kip Kinkel while he was reloading, and in Paducah Kentucky an administrator ran to his truck parked conveniently outside of the "gun free school zone" to retrieve a weapon and disarmed the shooter.

  2. Nothing like training people how to be victims. Places where there have been mass school attacks have allowed teachers and volunteers that were fully trained to have firearms to protect the schools and prevent mass shootings and people from taking hostages. A good example would be Israel after a hostage situation in 1974 where 25 people were killed and 66 were wounded in Maalot. After that situations turned out different. In 2002 an Israeli teacher shot and killed a suicide bomber before he could harm anyone. Sticking your head in the sand will not make the situation better. You need to be active and be a surviver not a victim.

  3. I have two school age kids. Its really funny that I carry concealed wherever I go. I walk the kids to school and then leave them for the whole day in a "gun free zone" where any nutcase can bring in a gun and start shooting.

    If they insist on not allowing teachers and staff to protect out kids, they should have LEOs on scene at all times.

    I would love to see some armed teachers. Hell, I'll volunteer my time to train them. For a big school, I would say at least 3 teachers or staff. Arm the janitors. They would probably be the first to know if something is wrong anyway.

    The whole concept of hiding and hoping that you don't get killed is defeatist and cowardly. To put our kids in that kind of jeopardy should be criminal..

  4. Evacuation to a schools parking lot in the event of a fire, bomb threat, or active shooter run the risk of subjecting them to a car bomb; and that might be just what the perpetrator intended.
    Julain

  5. The picture they have the kids lined up like Ducks in a pond. Shame we have become a nation of Sheep we once we were a nation of Wolfs

  6. Let’s back of the envelope this thing. About 64 million enrolled students, say 5 minutes per drill (conservatively), that’s 320 million person-minutes or 608 m person-years per month. Last I heard school shootings killed about 2 people a month on average and each school age child has about 65-75 years of life left or 1/4 the amount of time spent on drills. So on average these drills if they were totally effective at preventing school shooting deaths would still result in a net decrease in the time each child spends not doing these boring drills. Other types of attacks would decrease the amount by which the drills exceed increased survival time, but not by much when you consider there hasn’t been a successful school bombing in the USA in decades.

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