“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 . . .
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.
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”)?
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.
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.