Gun violence continues to be a serious issue in the U.S., and 95% of American public schools practice lockdown drills to prepare students for school shootings. Some schools go as far as to have fake shooting scenarios played out during drills.
“I don’t support school shooting drills. There is no evidence suggesting that school shooting drills prepare students or staff in the event of a shooting. However, Carlmont’s drills are fairly reasonable. Many schools perform terrifying ‘simulations’ which we don’t see at Carlmont,” said Samantha Kim, Carlmont’s Students Demand Action president.
Kim’s sentiment around the harmful effects of lockdown drills is supported by a study by Everytown and Georgia Tech that explains that drills lead to a 39-42% increase in stress, anxiety, and depression but were still helpful in preparing students for emergencies.
“This research, paired with the lack of strong evidence that drills save lives, suggests that proactive school safety strategies may be both more effective and less detrimental to mental health than drills,” the study said.
These “proactive school safety strategies” include reforming drills to prevent harm to students’ and teachers’ mental health, while addressing the ethical issues surrounding drilling students for a rare possibility of experiencing a school shooting, according to the study.
“Schools have to weigh the impacts of traumatizing students and staff with the likely minuscule benefits of drills,” Kim said. “However, drills probably provide students, staff, and parents with a sense of control and preparedness, and I can’t blame administrators for choosing to perform drills.”
The risk of a school shooting factors into how important students consider lockdown drills.
“I don’t think people take them seriously because although we know they can definitely happen, it’s not something that we need to worry about as much as other stuff,” said sophomore Anya Mele.
And whether or not drills effectively prepare students for school shootings, San Carlos has safe storage ordinances and other gun control legislation proven to be effective preventative measures against these situations.
“I think it’s far more logical to try to prevent shootings rather than mitigate the impacts, and that responsibility lies with lawmakers, not schools,” Kim said.
Moms Demand Action, a branch of the organization Everytown, started in 2012 as a way for parents to advocate for more gun safety in schools. It started shortly after the Sandy Hook school shooting and has expanded to be part of the largest gun safety organization in the U.S.
“It’s more about better school-based interventions to keep schools safe. Part of that is the overall safety climate at school, like more mental health support or ‘see something, say something,’” said Joan Kazerounian, the California Student Liaison Lead at Moms Demand Action. “Planning and communication about safe storage, Extreme Risk or Red Flag laws, and making a threat assessment at each school are also important. The student’s and teacher’s observations and knowledge should be keenly listened to while making safety plans.”
While drills are often used, a safety plan that students are aware of is a lot more important, according to Kazerounian, and it is often a misconception that students are responsible for preparing themselves for situations through drills when legislators are responsible for keeping communities safe.
According to Carlmont administrators, a new Say Something program will be implemented shortly, providing a way for students to report suspicious behavior to the school, and Carlmont will continue to work with the Belmont Police Department to keep the school safe.