There were 549 school-related gun incidents between 2013 and 2019 that resulted in 208 deaths and 413 injuries, according to Everytown For Gun Safety Support Fund, an organization dedicated to researching and reducing gun violence.
With those numbers, active shooter drills at schools certainly seem warranted.
However, Everytown, along with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association — the nation’s two largest education unions — are questioning the effectiveness of such drills after reports of extreme measures being taken during drills in school districts across the country.
According to a report generated by Everytown, teachers at Meadowlawn Elementary School in Monticello, Indiana, for example, were lined up as local law enforcement shot them in the back with Airsoft rifles. The report also highlights increased trauma among students spanning various grade levels who were subjected to live-action simulations that involved the discharging of “blanks” during drills.
Essentially, the groups do not advocate active shooter training for students, and if districts maintain the importance of such drills, they “shouldn’t be unnecessarily realistic, should give plenty of student and parental warning, and be developed with age-appropriateness and sensitivity towards children with special needs or those who have experienced trauma.”
In Daviess County, the concerns are not an issue given that training performed in Owensboro Public Schools and Daviess County Schools with the Daviess County Sheriff’s Department focuses on preparedness as well as the well-being of area students, said Damon Fleming, DCPS safety and security coordinator.
“We are very aware of the balance between protecting the safety of our students and ensuring that students are not unnecessarily frightened by those drills and safety practices,” Fleming said. “We do not subject students to simulations that mimic an actual incident, but instead focus on empowering students and staff with the knowledge, skills and practices that have been proven to save lives in the event of an actual emergency.”
OPS has gone as far as to implement the “Crisis Go App,” meant to streamline emergency drill procedures and ensure communication, said Jared Revlett, OPS public information officer.
“We have been implementing this app for the past year,” he said. “In the event of an active shooter or any emergency situation, we will be able to communicate with administration, faculty and staff throughout the building.”
As far as giving advanced notice of a drill like Everytown, AFT and the NEA advocate, that would defeat the purpose, he said.
“In a real-life situation, for example, a couple of weeks ago, someone called in that they heard gunshots in front of the high school,” Revlett said. “We received an alert and we immediately went on lockdown. In a real-life situation, we would not have that time. You don’t notify if you do a fire drill. To my knowledge, we have never had a report that these drills are traumatic. It is unfortunate that we have to consider this type of thing, but no one has come out and said it is traumatic.”
While the safety drills developed for students have proven advantageous locally, the primary goal of the Daviess County Sheriff’s Department is on training the faculty and staff, said Major Barry Smith, chief deputy for the department.
“I would think that if we did the full-scale scenario, that would not be good for the children,” he said. “The way that we do it is paramount and it has paid huge dividends in the event of an active shooter. In scenarios done with faculty and staff, we do fire off blanks so the teachers and faculty can understand the sound. Those scenarios are done in the summer months. We also observe lockdown drills and ensure that school staff and our officers are all familiarized with each respective environment. We have custom-tailored it for the needs of our community.”
For the better part of the last year, Everytown, the AFT and the NEA have been developing a comprehensive safety plan inspired by the stories of teachers and students across the nation to shore up a failure to ensure “best-practices” on the part of some school districts nationwide regarding drills, especially in regard to preventative practices.
Daviess County Emergency Management Agency Director Andy Ball, along with Kentucky Emergency Management Director Mike Dossett, has been working toward bringing psychologist and author Dr. Peter Langman to Kentucky to provide a training on how to identify the “red flags,” Ball said.
“These active shooter trainings are irreplaceable in my opinion,” he said. “I teach preparation for a living and these trainings are important, in the event of any emergency preparedness, for creating resiliency among the community. That being said, one thing we have been doing is focusing more on preparedness and identifying those red flags. There has been a lack of that training nationwide and more than not in these school shootings there were indicators that someone saw and didn’t report. Had they had those tools, lives could have been saved. I don’t think we need to get rid of the response side, we just need to add more to the prevention side.”
Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, email@example.com