Two largest US teachers unions urge schools to stop active shooter drills for students

The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s two biggest teachers unions, on Tuesday called on schools to end the practice of unannounced active shooter drills, arguing they cause students unnecessary distress without improving preparedness.

“Everywhere I travel, I hear from parents and educators about active shooter drills terrifying students, leaving them unable to concentrate in the classroom and unable to sleep at night,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said, according to The Associated Press. “So traumatizing students as we work to keep students safe from gun violence is not the answer. That is why if schools are going to do drills, they need to take steps to ensure the drills do more good than harm.”

The unions released a report Tuesday in conjunction with the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund recommending that contingency plans for possible active shooter situations focus on teacher preparedness rather than students'. The report also contains guidelines for schools that opt for drills, including never replicating an actual shooting and consulting with mental health professionals to avoid exercises that could damage students’ mental health.

Jean-Paul Guilbault, CEO of the Alice Training Institute, which runs active shooter drills, told the AP that effective drills should not involve surprise, but that he did believe simulating such a scenario was most effective if it “allow[s] students to practice their options, whether that be lockdown or evacuation.”

“According to a recent study conducted by The U.S. Secret Service, most school shootings last for two minutes or less, and nearly half of the events studied ended within one minute,” he said in a written statement, according to the AP. “That means it is up to us to keep ourselves safe for those seconds that will feel as slow as a lifetime. We drill so everyone has a plan when faced with danger, to give people a chance at survival.”