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How realistic should school shooting drills be?

AP
Members of NY's Washington County Sheriff's Office and the Hudson Falls Police Department use unloaded guns to take part in an emergency drill.
Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 8:21 AM
Last updated 7:54 PM
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“I want to see my kids! Bang! Bang!” the man shouted as he stormed into the front office of a South Carolina elementary school and pointed a handgun at a secretary and custodian. Both went limp at the verbal gunshots, and the “shooter,” a police officer taking part in a school safety drill, continued his rampage.

Members of the North Augusta Public Safety SWAT team survey the classrooms of North Augusta Middle School during a monthly training session in January 2013..
  File: EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
File: EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Members of the North Augusta Public Safety SWAT team survey the classrooms of North Augusta Middle School during a monthly training session in January 2013..


While an assistant principal dialed 911, the gunman took aim at two students and their principal. All fell to the floor with bloody, fake wounds.

“We are in lockdown,” announced a woman over the public address system at Howe Hall Howe Hall Arts-Infused Magnet School in Goose Creek, S.C. Students and teachers hunkered silently in darkened classrooms away from closed blinds and locked doors, while police officers with rifles worked their way through hallways decorated with student art.

This is the extent to which safety is being practiced in schools today. While the end of the Cold War removed the duck-and-cover exercises that had students crouching beneath desks under threat of an atomic bomb, the intent is the same: to protect against the unimaginable. But not all experts agree on how realistic the exercises need to be.

“It’s kind of scary. At least the kids know they’re preparing for it,” said parent Brandee Davidson, whose 6- and 10-year-old daughters took part in the Howe Hall intruder drill.

Most states started to require school emergency management plans after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., though the types of scenarios and preparation vary widely, according to data compiled by the Education Commission of the States, which tracks state policy trends.

North Dakota, for example, added lockdown drills to the required fire, tornado and other disaster drills in 2011, while Minnesota has required at least five yearly lockdown drills since 2006. Various districts in Illinois, Tennessee, North Carolina and Washington are among those that have used mock shooters to heighten the reality.

St. Bernard School in New Washington, Ohio, was eerily quiet as the police chief and principal walked the halls checking doors during a January lockdown drill on the one-month anniversary of Newtown. The children sat cross-legged in darkened coat closets before returning to their lessons.

In the upstate New York town of Hudson Falls, police in body armor carried unloaded weapons and negotiated with an acting hostage-taker Monday during a drill at an elementary school, including younger students, in what had been a middle- and high-school exercise before December’s shooting of 20 first-graders and six adults in Newtown, Conn.

On Wednesday, an intruder drill at Cary-Grove High School in Illinois featured a blank fired from a starter pistol.

Rather than frighten, the drills are intended to reassure students and their parents that everyone in the school would know what to do in an emergency, administrators and safety experts said.

A study in the School Psychology Review examined the effects of crisis drills on students and found that they increased their knowledge of what to do — but not their anxiety levels or perceptions of safety.

The 2007 study, which involved fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders, measured reactions after a relatively calm lockdown drill that didn’t use guns and props, co-author Amanda Nickerson said Wednesday. She’s not convinced extreme realism would yield the same results.

“I don’t think that’s necessary, and I would think it could raise people’s anxiety unnecessarily,” said Nickerson, an associate professor of educational psychology at the University at Buffalo.

Lockdowns and evacuations can be explained in a manner that does not create fear and panic, said consultant Kenneth Trump, president of the National School Safety and Security Services.

“We don’t need to teach kids to attack armed intruders by throwing pencils and books at a gunman or to have a SWAT team at the kindergarten doors, but it’s not unreasonable for school leaders to make sure that students, teachers and support staff know what to do in an emergency,” he said.

Brandee Davidson’s 10-year-old said she and her classmates were startled when two police officers burst through the door with guns at the October exercise at Howe Hall, even though they were told about the lockdown drill in advance.

“Whoa, we did not expect that at all,” Rylee Davidson said during a phone interview with her mother’s consent. “It was kind of scary.”

Her 6-year-old sister, Harper, said that she “was a little nervous” when she saw the fake wounds on the boys who were part of the drill, but that both she and her sister got the point: “So we would know what to do if it really happened, if an intruder came to our school.”

The Howe Hall exercise ended in a flurry of fake gunfire created by officers yelling “bang-bang-bang” and a “suspect’s down” radio dispatch.

“Unfortunately, it’s a sign of the times,” said principal Christopher Swetckie. Pupils are told it’s like hide-and-seek, he said, and a placard system is used to notify law enforcement if there is an injured person in the room.

“I hate that in this day and age that you have to prepare for these types of events,” he said.

Brandee Davidson said she didn’t talk much with her daughters about their school’s drill in October. But two months later, after Newtown, it suddenly left the realm of routine.

“We sat down and said it’s important that if they ever have another intruder drill, please make sure they do whatever their teacher says because their teacher will keep them safe,” she said.

She said she believes every school should have such run-throughs.

“On the one hand, you don’t want to scare the children,” said Dr. Ronald Stephens, who advises districts as executive director of the National School Safety Center, “but many things you would do for a fire drill would be consistent with what would be done for a crisis drill.”

“I’ve rarely seen anyone reach for the plan in the middle of a crisis,” Stephens said. “They have to know it.”

Trump concurred, recommending lockdowns be practiced at least twice a year at different times during the day.

“School crisis plans that sit upon a shelf,” he said, “are not worth the paper they are written upon.”

Comments (17) Add comment
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OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 01/31/13 - 08:53 am
4
0
In a No Kill hostage

In a No Kill hostage scenario this might will work.
But of the last 3 major school shooting The shooter walked in killing faculty and students and was finished in least than 15 mins.

In 2 of the situations the shooter did his evil deed before the police arrived. In 3 of the latest cases, was dead by his own hand and not the police.

WHAT WE NEED
is better school level physical security protection.
Viable limited access which prevents the Mental Cases from gaining access to the school building to start with. Then if he gains access, then prevent access to multiple classrooms or areas.

We need also need to ALLOW teachers to carry a firearm, if they want to, and are willing to take and pass a certified training course.

BTW: To
Professor Nickerson, Asst PHD of educational psychology at the University at Buffalo.

I am a product of the early 1960's.
From 1st grade and on We under went NUKE Attack drills monthly, and it did not traumatize me or 100 million other students.

JUSTICE187
14
Points
JUSTICE187 01/31/13 - 09:07 am
2
0
The Officers currently

The Officers currently assigned to the schools locally are way understaffed and underpaid and are leaving the Department for better job opportunities. It is high time that this community realize the importance of having armed Police Officers in the school! The school board is able to find funding for everything else, lets locate some money to better pay and equip these Officers before we lose more of them ! These Officers are undoubtedly the first line of defense in regard to the protection of your children. As stated by the RCSO Swat team commander, in a school active shooter situation it will take a minimum of 45 minutes after the shooting starts for the SWAT team to rally up and respond. It will be up to the Officer at the school to "stop" the threat. It was only a few months ago that there were known terrorists here in Richmond Co. What better way to shock the conscience of a community, no, a nation, than to harm its most precious resource.....it's children! It is time to wake up!

Little Lamb
49260
Points
Little Lamb 01/31/13 - 09:17 am
3
1
Hardened Entrances

I've posted several times here that our schools are too easy for parents, visitors, vendors, contractors, maintenance workers, etc. to enter unannounced and go trampling all over the grounds unescorted. We need hardened entrances where gunmen cannot say, “I want to see my kids! Bang! Bang!”

What do you think?

Little Lamb
49260
Points
Little Lamb 01/31/13 - 09:18 am
2
0
Biden

What do you think Joe Biden thinks about my idea?

TrulyWorried
16721
Points
TrulyWorried 01/31/13 - 09:45 am
2
1
School Safety

Little Lamb - the locking of school doors after classes are in should be the first line of defense. If anyone wants to enter - let them ring the bell or whatever, and can be scrutinized what as to what he/she is there for.
And, hopefully, one well paid uniformed guard can then determine the next step.

justthefacts
25486
Points
justthefacts 01/31/13 - 10:02 am
5
0
Sad

Some world we live in, huh?

zippy
250
Points
zippy 01/31/13 - 11:01 am
3
0
There is no easy answer, but

There is no easy answer, but these posts seem to be on the right path. I think we need some "hard entrances" where every person entering the building gets signed in and approved prior to entering the areas where to students are. They should not be allowed to just walk in and go right past the office and continue down the halls. I know that the "policy" states that they should sign in, but a shooter doesn't care about policy. Also, they fire code will not allow the outside doors or the classroom doors to stay locked at all times. In a fire that could be tragic if the students were trapped. I agree with developing some type of on sight defense, whether it is training the staff and allowing them to carry firearms, building a safe room in each classroom that is unable to be breached from the outside or even armed police officers on the grounds at all times. One thing is for sure, if you remove all available defenses, the schools will continue to be an easy target.

Little Lamb
49260
Points
Little Lamb 01/31/13 - 11:10 am
4
0
Fire Marshal

Zippy, the school exterior doors can be made to lock to persons on the outside, but still allow persons on the inside to exit. That's what the "crash bars" are for.

Little Lamb
49260
Points
Little Lamb 01/31/13 - 11:12 am
3
0
Metal Detectors

I cannot get into the Marble Palace downtown (or the Evans courthouse, for that matter) without my little red-handled pocket knife setting off the metal detectors. How about making schools at least as safe as Fred (What, me worry?) Russell's office.

Red Headed Step Child
4496
Points
Red Headed Step Child 01/31/13 - 12:47 pm
1
0
No easy solution..

It seems to me that you can totally lock down a school - have exterior doors that can only be opened remotely, bullet proof glass, metal detectors, etc. to keep kids and faculty safe while IN school - but they have to leave the building to go home sometime, right? What's to keep some maniac from playing sniper and picking off kids and teachers when school lets out? I think it's an unfortunate fact that there is no way to 100% protect them - but we DO have to do everything we can eliminate as much of the threat as possible. As we all know, there are evil people out there, and they will find SOME way to accomplish their heinous acts - without remorse.

specsta
7183
Points
specsta 01/31/13 - 02:44 pm
2
2
"Protect The Children"? At What Cost?

Here's an idea - let's just build a jail with classrooms, because most of you folks think that locking kids up in a school with limited access is the sane answer.

It's not.

This approach (SWAT drills, armed teachers, Gestapo's with guns in every corridor) just teaches kids to accept a police state - like this is supposed to be some normal way of life. "Papers, please" all starts in the name of "security" and ends with totalitarianism.

Mention "protect the children" and all sanity goes out the window. It is the key phrase to allow governmental control and restrictions on freedom - after all, who would dare to question something that "protects" kids? So legislation and policies get rammed through legislatures and we find ourselves ever closer to George Orwell's "1984"; that is, if we're not past it yet already.

Students need to be taught in environments that encourage freedom, expression and critical thinking. This concept has been eroding for decades, replaced with a mantra that does not allow free thinking or the ability to make a simple decision. Now these kids are being frightened into thinking that guns all around will protect them from some unseen sinister force. Guns and more guns and heavy-handed paramilitary tactics is the saving grace of the day.

Maybe we should focus on the mentally disturbed folks that commit these horrific acts, and improve on the overall mental health of the nation (one that is highly medicated and mostly uneducated) so that these events do not have an opportunity to be hatched in someone's disturbed brain.

Police states and more guns is not the answer and never will be. As Ben Franklin said "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither safety nor liberty."

Little Lamb
49260
Points
Little Lamb 01/31/13 - 03:08 pm
2
0
Maybe

Specsta posted:

Maybe we should focus on the mentally disturbed folks that commit these horrific acts, and improve on the overall mental health of the nation (one that is highly medicated and mostly uneducated) so that these events do not have an opportunity to be hatched in someone's disturbed brain.

Maybe so. But it sounds a little pie in the sky to me.

I have a hard time envisioning how a thousand or more individual school systems can "improve on the overall mental health of the nation" while attempting to educate their charges (as well as feed them and bus them).

Also, I haven't heard Joe Biden's ideas on improving the overall mental health of the nation. He's too busy trying to rustle up votes to outlaw guns and infringe on lawful gun owners.

TrulyWorried
16721
Points
TrulyWorried 01/31/13 - 04:50 pm
3
0
School safety

should start with keeping the doors locked once the children are in classes. I lock my door when I am home - would be crazy not to. Then have a system where anyone wishing to enter the school during school hours will be screened accordingly - shouldn't be that hard, they do it at airports all over the world. To mention safety after school in the way 'red head' did is not exactly the best comment to make - there are enough troubles to cope with, don't add to them - OK??
During dismissal of school why can't a patrol car circle the area? Sure there are a lot of schools, but there are also a lot of patrol cars. Surely someone with some common sense could coordinate all this and make it work. And I hope they don't have to hire an outside consultant to get this done!

corgimom
38777
Points
corgimom 01/31/13 - 05:00 pm
1
0
Locking the school doors is

Locking the school doors is unworkable. Scrutinize people? How do you do that? All you see is a person standing there. And I would like to point out that at Sandy Hook, the door was locked- and the shooter shot through the door.

The truth is that there is no way to make a school perfecty safe. Many schools have literally thousands of people there each day, with constant traffic going in and out. Nowhere is safe, but people don't want to face that. There have been shootings in post offices, malls, restaurants, school playgrounds, workplaces, theatres. A man stole a tank in San Diego and literally drove over cars.

Most of those school shootings are done by students themselves- so how do you keep them out?

You are in far greater danger being killed while driving down the road in your car than you are being killed by a shooter, but you don't see people all fired up about that, do you?

corgimom
38777
Points
corgimom 01/31/13 - 05:06 pm
3
1
As for training school staff-

As for training school staff- it takes a very certain type of person that can, or wants to be trained, to kill people (and that's what you would be doing, that would be the sole reason for them to be armed.) And very, very few people find it easy to kill children- and that's who does most of the school shootings.

If you REALLY want to stop these shootings, stop broadcasting it and sensationalizing it. They do it for attention, for fame, for revenge- and if you take away the attention, it will lose its power and fascination. The media is responsible for this huge increase, whenever these incidents occur, they overwhelm everything for months and years. That's exactly what those shooters want. The media is desperate for viewers and readers, and cover these events incessantly.

specsta
7183
Points
specsta 01/31/13 - 10:23 pm
0
2
The Media?

Corgimom wrote - "The media is responsible for this huge increase, whenever these incidents occur, they overwhelm everything for months and years."

Sorry, but the media does not place weapons in the hands of the mentally disturbed, nor does the media have a cadre of lobbyists in Washington touting gun rights, nor does the media have parents who own guns with easy access by children.

The whole "let's blame the media" diversion fails to address the fact that America loves its guns and bullets and as long as irresponsible gun owners exist and as long as major loopholes in gun laws exist, disturbed people will continue to be able to get guns and kill people.

gargoyle
21169
Points
gargoyle 01/31/13 - 11:31 pm
1
0
Our government is very scared

Our government is very scared of the people it serves, My wife had to take a micro screwdriver (the kind that fixes eyeglasses) back to her car before she could enter a local government building. All the training that can be done is fine if it helps the gullible get a better nights sleep. But unless we address why all these folks are mad at world or how to identify the defect that makes a mad man want to act out with violence we are just whistling in the dark

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