Do School Shooting Drills Do More Harm Than Good?

The school shooting last week –- a 17-year old in Omaha killed the assistant principal and wounded the principal before killing himself -– is sure to revive the debate about whether schools should have shooting drills.

That is because the crime is so horrific, we feel it in our guts -- and hear about it on the news. A lot. Those facts alone, however, don't mean that the drills make sense.

Here's a video of one such drill, complete with screaming kids running down the halls, and an interview with the "safety expert" who has coordinated hundreds of these drills around the country. After any shooting, he said, his phone rings off the hook. The anchorwoman remarks that the drill seems very sobering, "but nonetheless, it appears to be very necessary."
Not to me it doesn't.

At least, no more necessary than strapping kids into fake cars and then simulating a crash, complete with shattering glass and a dummy spurting blood. I mean, if we're going to scare our kids to death in the name of "preparation," let's at least prepare them for a far more likely demise.

School shootings make the news because they are rarer than rare. They are so rare, in fact, that of the 55,600,000 children enrolled in school in 2008-09, 24 were the victims of homicide. By contrast, 2,000 kids die annually in car accidents.

And yet, car accidents get scant attention in the news. School shootings? The media go wild. So do us parents. We want to do something –- anything -- so we embrace these drills. What's the harm?

Well, for one thing, the time could be far better spent drilling kids on street-crossing safety, or pool safety -- even cooking safety. Teach them to dodge the dangers they are far more likely to encounter.

But the real problem is that these drills are absolutely corrosive. Schools do not use fog machines to make fire drills more terrifying. Tornado drills do not involve hurtling debris through the windows. To most kids, those drills just feel like exciting breaks from the ordinary day.

A school shooting drill is something else. Not only is it more dramatic, it is more traumatic. The whole idea, brought screamingly home, is that any one of our friends or teachers could suddenly try to murder us. The message to kids is that they really can't trust anyone. It's like the TSA patting down every last granny in every last wheelchair: We are teaching our kids that only constant paranoia makes sense.

We all want our kids to be safe at school. Luckily for us, when it comes to murder, schools are already one of the safest places a child could be. Even without a shooting drill.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.