HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Two of the nation’s largest teachers unions are calling for an end to unannounced active shooter drills at schools.
They say the drills can cause more harm than good.
“Everyone hides in the corner and they just turn out the lights and close the windows,” freshman Gianna Cristodaro said. “Someone started crying once, so they were really scared.”
Active shooter drills have become standard practice at most schools. In New Jersey, schools are required by law to hold at least one lockdown drill a month.
“A lot of people are scared ’cause we don’t know if it’s real or not,” freshman Samantha Kleimy said.
“In the back of your mind, you’re just thinking, what if this is real? What if there’s someone walking around the halls with a gun?” sophomore Michael Mariano said.
How they’re conducted varies by district. Sometimes students are warned it’s just a drill, but often, they’re not, CBSN New York’s Ali Bauman reports.
“You’re rushing to text your parents. You’re like, you never know this might be the last time that you’re talking to your parents and then for it all to just be a drill, you’re like, wow, I really went through all that,” college student Leslie Peterson said.
Watch: How To Talk To Your Children And Prepare For An Active Shooter Emergency —
The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association are now joining gun safety advocates in demanding schools disclose to students before every active shooter drill that it is just practice.
“Because we don’t have evidence that those are effective, but what we do know is that it can be very traumatizing to the students,” said Sonni Mun, with Moms Demand Action.
“You have to tell the kids,” parent Jocelyn Verdadero said.
“It’s good not to announce it. That way you know how they’re gonna react. You know exactly how they’re gonna respond and that way you know what you need to work on, what needs to be practiced,” parent Andre Peterson said.
The teachers unions say schools that do continue active shooter drills should make them age-appropriate for each grade and incorporate input from mental health professionals.
Dr. Jodi Gold is a child psychiatrist and believes unannounced drills can often do more harm than good.
“I have a few kids that I’m treating that have school avoidance, which means that they’re fearful to go to school because they’ve been a part of these drills and the drills have been traumatizing,” she said.
Alice Training Institute, which runs active shooter drills, says students should be aware of drills before it starts, but in a statement says, “When done appropriately, drills that simulate an event and allow students to practice their options, […] are the most effective to keep children safe.”