Do you hold your breath the way I do when hearing the Emergency Alert System drill on the TV or radio?
My first thought is War followed by nuclear explosion followed by tornado. Where do your thoughts go?
I suppose if you were a child in the 60’s you’d be worried about the “Cold War” and remember hiding under your desk awaiting certain destruction.
Let’s now think of our children. When they hear “LOCK DOWN” in their school, what do they think? What goes through their minds?
What are School Lockdown Drills?
Lock down drills are important and most schools are holding them several times a year. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) states that as of 2018, 92% of schools have active shooter protocols in place on their campuses. Now 40 states mandate active shooter drills.
According to the CDC Violence Fact Sheet, studies have shown that in 2019:
- 8% of high school students were in a physical fight at school
- 1 in 5 high school students were bullied on school property
- 7% of high school students were injured with a weapon
- 9% of high school students skipped school 1 time in a month because they felt unsafe
Fifth graders said they are glad to have lockdown drills because it keeps them safe, according to an article by CNN.
How to Perform Lock Down Drills
There are three kinds of drills performed in schools across the USA, but which one is the least harmful to a child’s mental health? Which one causes the least anxiety? What is the case for each?
Three Types of School Lock Down Drills:
- Actual Lock Down Drills-align with fire and weather drills.
- Option based Drills-other strategies like evacuation, barricades etc.
- Live simulation drills-play acting, sensorial components.
As of August 2020, Live Simulation drills are not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. They report scant evidence for the use of these kinds of drills and a lot of evidence against them.
Live simulation drills are primarily designed for first responders, law enforcement and members of a school crisis team … in other words … FOR ADULTS. The National Association of School Psychologist (NASP) Best Practices oﬀers specifics on how to hold live simulations.
Option Based drills oﬀer other discussion points during class time. Talking about how to make independent decisions based on certain factors. In other words….TEACHING FROM LEADERS.
These discussions are helpful in addition to lock down drills. However, there are some limitations with these drills as some barricades are not allowed due to ADA guidelines.
How Can Teachers Mitigate Stress from Lock Down Drills?
There are many things teachers and staﬀ can do to help to mitigate stress caused by lockdown drills.
Kids are smart and want direction. Talk to your students about the drill and what to expect. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has a nice tip-sheet on how to hold conversations with kids on this subject.
Staﬀ training is most important. NASP also has a clear and concise manual outlining the Best Practice Considerations for Armed Assailant in Schools. We recommend reviewing this guide.
Logic also tells us to ask teachers to remain calm with a controlled, reassuring voice when telling kids what to do so as not to upset them or “stress them out”.
Monitor reactions of students and report and refer them to the school psychologist or principal.
If a child has a condition like physical reactions (asthma, panic attacks) and emotional reactions (hysterical reactions, crying, etc), remove the student immediately from the drill.
Finally, make sure your school has the right equipment in place. Shelter Shutters are designed to cover your door windows quickly and completely during lockdowns and easily snap back into place after the emergency. Visit the Shelter Shutters website to learn more about our product for your school lockdowns.
In summary, it really is hard to tell the impact of such drills on our children down the road. But one thing we do know … being prepared is better than not being prepared. Spoken from a true Girl Scout.