Today, Reps. Pettersen and a bipartisan group of legislators introduced a bipartisan bill to address mental health impacts of school safety drills. The legislation comes during Gun Violence Awareness Month and in response to record levels of gun violence in schools.
The bill is introduced against this backdrop: school lockdown and active shooter safety drills, which are practiced by 95 percent of schools across the United States.
The bipartisan School Safety Drill Research Act was introduced by U.S. Congresswoman Brittany Pettersen (D-CO), alongside Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Nancy Mace (R-SC), and Jared Moskowitz (D-FL). It would provide K-12 schools with evidence-backed, standardized recommendations for conducting effective drills while protecting the mental well-being of students, parents, teachers, and school personnel.
“I was in the 11th grade at a neighboring high school during the Columbine massacre. Our community knows all too well the pain and trauma school shootings and their aftermath cause to the students, parents, and teachers involved—as well as the entire community,” said Pettersen.
“While it is crucial to prioritize the safety and preparedness of our schools, we must also consider the mental health implications of these drills,” she added. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to ensure active shooter and lockdown drills are effective, safe, and prioritize the well-being of our kids.”
School safety drills have become a universal part of American children’s school experience. At least 40 states set a required quota for how many lockdown drills schools must complete in a year. This practice underscores the need for increased school safety and preparedness, especially related to gun violence incidents, which have affected more than 352,000 students since Columbine. However, limited guidance or standardized best practices on these drills and their impact on the mental health of our school communities are not widely available.
“Preparing our students, parents, and educators for a crisis or emergency is essential to school community safety. While we encourage our schools to conduct lockdown and active shooter drills, we must also consider the impacts of these effective exercises on our communities’ mental well-being,” said Fitzpatrick.
“We cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand when it comes to gun violence and the affect it has on our children. By conducting a comprehensive study on the potential mental health impacts of lockdown or active shooter drills in schools, we can ensure that our safety measures do not inadvertently harm the emotional well-being of our children,” said Mace. “This act will provide valuable insights that can guide the development of effective and compassionate protocols, ensuring both physical safety and mental resilience for our students. We remain committed to working towards creating safer learning environments for all of our children regardless of where they live and go to school.”
“On February 14, 2018, my son was at school just down the street when the mass shooting took place at my high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and 17 innocent people were murdered. He was hiding in a closet on lockdown,” said Moskowitz. “My community has lived with the trauma ever since, and we now live in a world where our children are forced to conduct active shooter drills regularly, which undoubtedly impacts their mental health and way of life. This legislation will help us better understand the consequences of these unfortunate but necessary drills on our children and help us put forward a holistic approach to keep our kids safe in school.”
The School Safety Drill Research Act would address the gaps in understanding by studying and identifying the best practices to maximize the effectiveness of school safety drills. It would also fund the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine to examine the possible mental health effects of active shooter drills, lockdown drills, and other firearm violence prevention activities in schools on school staff and students, including younger children and children with disabilities.