School lockdown drills. They’ve become a debated subject among parents and state lawmakers. Some elected officials are looking to reduce the number of required school lockdown drills from four to one, arguing the drills cause anxiety and trauma in children.
“There’s definitely a psychological impact of the lockdown drills on students as well as on some school administrators and teachers,” Dr. Monique Winnett, clinical psychologist, St. Joseph’s Health, said.
Dr. Winnett says there is a lot that can be done to reduce the depression and anxiety rates that come from these drills.
“What we know is that when parents are notified ahead of time and can have the space to process and discuss with their children at home, prior as well as after these drills that can be helpful,” said Dr. Winnett.
Dr. Winnett says it’s important for teachers to be able to prep their classes and explain to their students why these drills can be helpful.
“Helping youth to understand that the likelihood of something like this occurring is very very rare. School is a safe space and this is part of how we keep it safe by doing these drills,” Dr. Winnett said.
She says it’s not so much about reducing the number of lockdown drills, but making sure they are trauma sensitive and standard not only across the state but across the country.
“We do not support the legislation as it reads, but we’re working with a number of people, as is the education department, to talk about amendments to that legislation,” Kyle Belokopitsky, executive director for New York State Parent Teachers Association, added.
Under the legislation introduced by Assemblymember Jo Ann Simon and state Senator Andrew Gounardes, the drills would only be required once a year, and parents would need to be notified and given the chance to opt their children out.
Belokopitsky says the lockdown drills have to be tailored to the developmental age of the children.
“We’re all kind of looking at the research, we’re looking at the data that came out of that school safety summit. We’re talking to law enforcement, we’re talking to parents and families to try to get this right. Something like this takes time,” Belokopitsky said.
“I don’t support the legislation as it’s written. I think it’s very important that our children understand that a drill is practice,” Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon said.
Buttenschon says that, with the right guidance, she’s confident that these drills can be administered in a way that children and parents are comfortable.
“It just brings about so that it becomes second nature to a child. If we’re not doing it enough for them to prepare, then it doesn’t become comfortable if unfortunately it isn’s a drill,” Buttenschon said.
The state senate passed the bill in June, but it stalled in the assembly as lawmakers said state education officials needed time to provide guidance. Assembly education committee chair Michael Benedetto says the education department is still in the fact finding process.
State lawmakers won’t be back in Albany until January.