Illinois has been required by law to conduct active shooter drills to prepare students for potential violence. But two national teacher unions are calling for an end to simulations that mimic an actual incident of gun violence during school safety drills because of the potentially harmful effects they can have on the mental health of students and teachers.
Rob Wilcox, deputy director of policy and strategy at Everytown advocates for new approaches. “Schools need to develop age-appropriate content, and it needs to be multidisciplinary. Not just law enforcement (but) school mental health professionals, teachers, students. ”
Colleen Cicchetti, executive director of the Center for Child Resilience at Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital. “People who we were aiming to protect were students and teachers, and the fact that teachers are saying the cost of doing this and stress it’s causing for them and students outweighs any benefit is really important to the conversation.”
Watts, of Moms Demand Action, said she’s heard from parents whose children were introduced to the concept of catastrophic violence through these drills and went on to fear school, lose sleep, see their academic performance decline, or develop anxiety or depression. Some students have wet themselves or suffered asthma attacks during drills, and some won’t wear shoes with lights for fear of attracting a shooter.
State Sen. Julie Morrison, a Deerfield Democrat and sponsor of the legislation requiring schools to conduct annual active shooter drills, said the law is an unfortunate but necessary measure in today’s society.