Teachers in St. Francois County, Missouri, have complained after they were told part of their duties include being shot at with pellet guns during “active shooter” drills. Officials told the teachers they would also be required to wear goggles to protect their eyes.
Fear, paranoia, infatuation with gun culture, and an increase in militarism at the local level have resulted in active shooter drills being conducted routinely by police across the country-- many of them with needless levels of realism and some which unintentionally raise the level of risk of injury to participants and those conducting the drills.
Less than a week after Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, an elementary school in East Harlem, New York, conducted an unannounced exercise. The school was locked down and a woman’s voice repeatedly shouted “shooter” and “intruder” over the school’s public address system. Police (who apparently weren't informed of the drill) responded after a frightened woman in the school called 911. The incident was particularly troublesome due to the fact the school serves 300 students with special needs, including those with severe emotional disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy and other disorders.
Also in late 2012, students at the North Lake College in Irving, Texas, were subjected to an unannounced shooter drill. Following complaints about the exercise, the college insisted it sent out email notifications. After an investigation by a local TV station, the school was forced to admit that school faculty were not informed in advance about the active shooter drill.
In rural Oregon last year, teachers were traumatized when masked men appeared unannounced at a high school in Baker County and burst into a teachers’ lounge and opened fire with blanks. Oregon allows residents to carry concealed weapons-- luckily, none of the teachers or school personnel were armed and/or reacted with deadly force.
In January of 2013, Illinois students in classrooms at the Cary-Grove High School endured police firing blanks in school hallways “in an effort to provide our teachers and students some familiarity with the sound of gunfire,” according to principal Jay Sargeant. A number of parents said they were not informed prior to the drill, although the school district claimed it had sent out email notifying them. It said the uninformed parents did not receive the email due to a technical problem.
Also last year, the parents of students at a El Paso high school were outraged when officials conducted an unannounced drill. Parents received panicked text messages from their children as the drill unfolded. “I’m not kidding,” one student texted his mother. “There’s gunshots and people screaming and we were locked in a storage closet.”
Police and school districts are also going so far as to introduce political overtones to the drills in order to heighten the realism. During a terror drill at a public school in Muskegon County, Michigan, students and teachers were told that “home-schoolers” were the perpetrators of the fictional attack, saying, “The exercise will simulate an attack by a fictitious radical group called Wackos Against Schools and Education who believe everyone should be home-schooled." In another case in New Jersey, students were told that the imaginary attackers were gunmen from a group of “fundamentalist Christians” called “The New Crusaders."
People are now questioning the tactics being used in these drills, wondering if students can be prepared without unnecessarily traumatizing young children. In addition to blanks, fake blood and actors in costume, some districts are going so far as to bus children to off-site locations to further the terror induced by the drills. One county in Missouri has conducted over a dozen of these drills in the past year alone.