Those of you who have followed me over the years know that I have always been a strong proponent of preventing school violence, rather than focusing solely on after-the-fact actions and active shooter training. I firmly believe that a great deal of violence can be prevented by knowing what to watch for and having a process in place for reporting and assessing concerning words and behaviors.
Of course, I also believe that we need to be prepared overall, for all possible crises and emergencies. This includes knowing how to respond to fires, intruders, chemical leaks and many other hazards.
So, yes, we should know how to respond to an active shooter. But, we may have to rethink some of our current practices.
Research is beginning to support something many of us have believed all along: simulations of active school attacks can be frightening and traumatic for children and staff members.
The latest guidance on armed assailant drills comes to us from NASP, the National Association of School Psychologists and NASRO, the National Association of School Resource Officers. According to their joint report, Best Practice Considerations for Armed Assailant Drills in Schools, “schools should not use simulation techniques with students, and exercises should be appropriate to the participants’ development level and physical abilities. If sensorial exercises are conducted with staff, they should consent and be informed of the tactics being used, mental health supports must be available on-site during the exercises and after the exercises, and adult participants must be informed of the use and purpose of props and simulation aids prior to the drill. Drills should never involve props that interject or simulate physical harm (e.g., paintballs or rubber bullets) or physical contact with participants.”
So, what does this mean for your school? Training exercises should follow a progression of steps, beginning with basic activities. Going forward, lockdown drills should still be a critical component of training. Frequent nonsenorial/nonsimulation planning and walking through potential crises should comprise a great deal of your preparedness efforts. Options-based drills can provide alternative strategies for both staff and students to implement during an emergency situation.
For more detailed guidance in planning and implementing your preparedness and drill protocols, click here for the report referenced above.