The active-shooter school drills

Although the threat of an active shooter on school grounds is exceedingly rare, many districts continue to carry out drills that in many cases are extremely graphic (“The Needless Trauma of Active-Shooter Drills,” National Review, Nov. 11).  That has raised the question whether schools are acting with prudence or in panic.

I understand the intense anxiety that conducting such drills can create, especially in young children.  But in today’s highly litigious society, I believe such drills are a necessary evil.  I submit that it’s better to be sued by an irate parent than to mourn a dead child.

When I was teaching high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the policy was to have a stipulated number of fire drills each semester.  During my 28 years, there was never a fire.  But had there been one and teachers and students had not been trained what to do, there could have been tragic results.

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2 Replies to “The active-shooter school drills”

  1. The “active shooter” drills are a classic example of a “just do something” reaction combined with our hard-wired inclination to grossly over-estimate the likelihood of graphically terrible events occurring (i.e., being bitten by sharks while swimming in ocean).

    Common sense suggests that active shooter drills will have little, if any, impact on the number of students killed/injured if/when a fellow student brings a gun into the cafeteria and starts shooting. To my knowledge, most mass school shootings are over before active-shooter-drill training could significantly impact outcomes. Seems more likely that the active shooter drills will, on balance, result in additional school shooting deaths as a few of the millions of students who participate in the drills are inevitably influenced by the drills to become shooters — like the copycat effects of mass media coverage of school shootings.

    It would make much more sense for schools to conduct active-flu-virus drills or active-contaminated-food drills. Or, better yet, just spend the time that would be devoted to these safety drills (including probably fire drills) on basic health instruction — i.e., how not to get AIDs, what tobacco does to your lungs, the long-term dangers of nicotine addiction, the dangers inherent in street-purchased vaping products, the dangers of alcohol poisoning.

    Agree that school systems have a legitimate concern re being held liable in court if the school system does not hold the active-shooter drills, a shooting occurs, and the parents of the victims sue the school alleging negligence for failing to conduct the drills. But, the much more productive way to address this concern would be for the state govt to pass legislation giving school systems limited immunity in such situations — that is, unless the shooter was a school system employee, no school system liability (perhaps coupled with a provision for the state govt to pay the families of school shooting victims a fixed sum as compensation for their loss — like no-fault insurance).


  2. Labor Lawyer: In today’s litigious society, it’s understandable why school districts want to appear pro-active in dealing with threats. But I question if the drills really do much more than raise anxiety.


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