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Active shooter drills in schools can be ‘intense,’ ‘scarring’ for kids

(Photo by Rick T. Wilking/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The nation’s two largest teachers unions worry active shooter drills can harm students’ mental health, and the head of Arizona’s school resource officers group agrees these drills can be “intense” and “scarring” for kids.

The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association joined the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund to call on schools to revise or get rid of active shooter drills.

In a report released earlier this week, they said active shooter drills “have become a near-universal practice in American schools today, starting in preschool and continuing through high schools” even though only 0.2% of about 36,000 gun deaths per year occur on school grounds.

“Mental health professionals have begun warning about the effect of these drills on students’ well-being and about the possible short- and long-term consequences on school performance and physical and mental health,” the report stated.

The report also described an incident in Tucson where a mother said her son started biting his nails and “refused to go anywhere alone, even to his room or a bathroom at home” after going through an active shooter drill.

Kevin Quinn, president of the Arizona School Resource Officers Association, said some active shooter drills “probably could be considered a little intense for younger kids.” He said these drills tend to have people acting as school shooters and firing blanks with a fake gun.

“I can understand where a lot of people would want those kind of toned down a bit because they’re scaring some of our younger kids,” he said.

Quinn added most schools in Arizona don’t do active shooter drills. Instead, they do lockdown and evacuation drills.

In their report, the teachers unions and Everytown say schools should train school staff on how to respond to active shooter situations instead of doing drills.

They say if a school does choose to do active shooter drills, they “should not include simulations that mimic or appear to be an actual shooting incident.”

Quinn said while he opposes active shooter drills, he doesn’t think all drills should be eliminated.

“Like anything, take sports as an analogy, the more you practice the better you get for game time or when it really counts,” he said. “We do the lockdown drills and the evacuation drills to make sure that kids know what’s going on when something happens.”

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