Do you have regular active-shooter drills at your school? If so, what happens during these drills? What are you expected to do? How do you feel about having to participate?
WASHINGTON — After the first day of school at Mark T. Sheehan High School in Wallingford, Conn., Mackenzie Bushey, a 15-year-old junior, came home upset that a teacher enforced a no-cellphones policy by confiscating students’ phones before class. She needed her cell, Mackenzie told her family last month, to notify police should a gunman attack her school.
And also, she said, “to say my final goodbye to you.”
Mackenzie’s mother, Brenda Bushey, blames her daughter’s fears on monthly active-shooter drills at Sheehan High. “I understand they’re trying to think about the children’s best interests,’’ Ms. Bushey said in an interview. “But you can’t help but think of how it’s affecting them.”
Nearly every American public school now conducts lockdown drills — 96 percent in 2015 and 2016 — according to the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics. Law enforcement officials and many school administrators say they are crucial for preparing and safeguarding students, but methods vary widely and now include drills that child trauma experts say do little more than terrify already anxious children.
“A whole new cottage industry has emerged where people who don’t know anything about kids are jumping in and adapting protocols for groups like police officers or people preparing for combat,” said Bruce D. Perry, founder of the ChildTrauma Academy, whose clinical team assists maltreated and traumatized children through counseling, research and education. As a result, Dr. Perry said in an interview, “The number of developmentally uninformed, child-uninformed and completely stupid ideas is mind-numbing.”
The news media attention and policy debate surrounding school shootings, and the heartbreaking details of massacres like Columbine, Sandy Hook and Parkland, heighten the perceived risk among parents and students alike. After the shooting last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., nearly 60 percent of American teenagers said they were very or somewhat worried about a mass shooting at school, a similar proportion as parents, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.
In fact, while the vast majority of gun-related homicides involving children occur in the United States, only a tiny percentage occur on school grounds. But August’s spate of mass shootings, including in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Odessa and Midland, Tex., have lent urgency to a flood of new preparedness efforts.
Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.