KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) — Two of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation say active shooter drills in schools may be causing more harm than good. They are now calling for schools to stop the drills, which they call “psychologically distressing.”
The two unions said they do support training for school staff, but that children participating in the active shooter training is causing traumatic effects on them. Therefore, they’re pushing for changes.
Lockdown drills have been around for decades.
“Whenever they did it, my kids came home and talked all about it,” one mother named Laura Dirck said. “She was able to know what to do. She told me they go into a certain spot and put the backpacks over them.”
However, as fear of school shootings has grown over the years, others say the drills are causing more anxiety in children.
“He’ll climb into bed with me and my husband and say he’s scared,” mother Stephanie Myers said. “We’ll say, ‘Why are you so scared?’ snd he’ll say, ‘I’m having nightmares about being shot or somebody hurting us.’”
Though Myers feels the drills are necessary, she’d like to see them done differently.
“I think there could be a different kind of way to change the name of the drills or how they’re being communicated to the kids, especially at such a young age,” she said.
It’s because of this that the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association have put out a message saying the organizations want precautions added to the trainings. They mean things like ending unannounced active shooter drills and lifelike simulations or for schools to reconsider putting students through active shooter drills at all.
Clinical Psychologist Kara Wernar said active shooter trainings should be looked at differently and come with several components.
“These drills, what we’re seeing is it inhibits the child’s ability to learn, to feel safe, and it affects physical and mental health,” she said. “The trauma-informed piece is vital. Anything we’re doing around these lockdown drills has to be executed through a trauma-informed lens.”
Wernar added that schools need to make sure parents are aware the drills will be taking place, as well as make sure there are mental health professionals available in the schools.
“Schools are typically already strapped when it comes to this aspect, but we’re seeing kids who are having actual panic attacks in classrooms while these are happening and it’s just not being addressed,” she said.
Wernar added that if your child is experiencing anxiety or trauma you should encourage your child to talk to you about it. If there are longer-term symptoms like problems sleeping or severe nightmares, consider seeking a little additional support such as therapy.