National teachers unions call for end to active shooter drills

WICHTA, Kan. (KWCH) While not as prominent two decades ago, intruder and lockdown drills are commonplace in public schools.

Around 95 percent of U.S. schools practice how to respond in those situations of an active shooter.

How some schools handle that training has two of the nation's largest teachers unions recommending changes.

In a report Tuesday, gun-control advocate Everytown for Gun Safety and unions American Federation of Teachers and National Educators Association say immersive active shooter drills where students have no notice or instruction is harmful and traumatic.

The report follows some schools where students and staff were unaware if they were facing an actual school shooting or if it was a drill.

The recommendations from the report say schools should move away from active shooter drills in favor of lower stress and intensity lockout and evacuation procedure.

For schools that use the active shooter, the unions advise that the drills should not have the appearance of a previous school shooting.

Also, students, staff and parents should be notified before any drill happens.

When it comes to developing the drills, it should also include mental-health professionals with educators, administrators and law enforcement to ensure it meets the safety and ages of the students involved.

The unions are also wanted schools to keep track of student behavior after an active shooter drill for things like bad dreams, fear of a shooting and depression.

Wichita Public Schools says it already follows many of the recommendations in the report.

"That’s what we’re already doing. We never said that we were going to do the scare tactic drill. We have always said that drills exist to instill confidence and not to create fear," said Wichita Public Schools Safety and Environmental Services DirectorTerri Moses. "So what is being included in that document is exactly what we’re doing."

Each of Wichita's public schools run through four intruder drills a year.

Moses said, "We do it by content and context. So when you’re dealing with a PreK student, really, the only thing you want them to do is to follow the guidance of an adult. When you get to a high school student, then you want them to understand that they’ve got options. For the active intruder situation, we use Run, Hide, Fight. Which is basically our way of telling people that any kind of violent encounter you have three options."

When it comes to those drills, the district provides notice to students and staff.

"Announce, we’re going to do a drill, so you know that it’s coming up because we know that there is anxiety associated with drills, and we don’t want that to happen," Moses said. "We want to focus on I understand that I need to know in a strategic situation. I need to know what my options are and how I’m going to handle it. The best way I can do that is by staying calm."

The focus of the drill is to guide them through what is going to happen and how to respond.

"We don’t need a fire to have a fire drill," said Moses. "We just need to be able to walk through, talk through the consequences of our actions, and how we handle an emergency, and we can do that and instill that confidence that we need without creating that fear."

The report also recommends the use of active shooter drills to be paired with a larger school safety plan including threat assessment, mental health resources and cooperation with the police.