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Officials need to look more carefully at shooter drills

Though the chances of our local students finding themselves in an active shooter/violent intruder situation at school are remote, local officials are wise to organize drills that help them prepare for the possibility. In fact, psychologists say such preparation can help ease the anxiety of students who are worried after having seen news reports of other tragedies.

But there is a downside to such drills. Recent warnings from both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association say the drills — particularly those using realistic effects such as blank rounds or fake blood –can be traumatic themselves.

“What these drills can really do is potentially trigger either past trauma or trigger such a significant physiological reaction that it actually ends up scaring the individuals instead of better preparing them to respond in these kinds of situations,” according to a former president of the National Association of School Psychologists.

Locally, the more realistic drills are limited to older kids — and rightly so. But administrators who find themselves caught in a darned if they prepare, darned if they don’t situation should take the opportunity presented by these reports to examine whether adjustments can be made that will lessen the amount of fear or outright trauma experienced by students. Particularly the younger kids will benefit more from the briefings before and after such drills than from being huddled in a closed closet listening to the creaking footsteps of an approaching “intruder.”

“The drills need to be conducted in a fashion that doesn’t create new fears or anxieties,” one social work professor noted.

Local teachers and administrators have their work cut out for them in finding that balance.

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