Simulated Shooting Drills: The Pros and Cons

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Vaness Castillo

School shootings have been a big problem in the United States, especially this last decade. According to an article published by CNN last year, in the last 10 years, there have been a total of 180 school shootings, leaving a result of 356 victims. Sadly, most anyone who regularly enters the doors of any given high school knows that there’s a chance (no matter how slight), they could one day experience a school shooting. Round Lake High School is no different, and administrators work to keep staff and students prepared for such a tragedy. There’s always that one day where we all have to spend part of a class period huddled in the corner with the lights shut off. We sit as still and as quiet as possible, waiting for someone to come over the P.A. system to say it’s over so we can finally turn the lights back on. These school shooting drills involve everyone in the school: students, staff, police officer(s) in the building and other administrators. The drill usually occurs once a year, typically in the first semester between second and third period. But since there has been a rise in violence and school shootings, there is the question of whether or not we should have drills more than once a year, or whether or not we should change it up a bit. According to a March 2019 article in teacher trade publication Education Week, some schools are trying to make their shooting drills more realistic by having law enforcement officers fire blanks in the hallways to demonstrate the sound of gunfire, having student actors volunteer as victims, and showing actual footage from past shootings. While some say such active shooter simulations are worthwhile and helpful to formulating game plans, many say that the drills only cause more trauma and stress for staff and students. 

Round Lake Senior High School won’t take part in any drills similar to the ALICE Program because we don’t have the program in our district. The ALICE Program stands for Alert – Lockdown – Inform – Counter – Evacuate. Schools and businesses that are enrolled in the ALICE Program learn various ways to stay safe in an active shooter situation. 

According to Mr. Cesar Sanchez, one of the security officers at Round Lake High School, an active shooter drill would be useful because it provides better training for the staff and security officers. Mr. Michael Berrie, Round Lake’s principal, believes that active shooter drills are “important and necessary because people would feel prepared, be aware and be confident in case of an emergency.” Former RLHS student Heriberto Roman also sees benefits in participating in a simulation because “school shootings have become more common in America”.

While there are definite advantages to a simulated active shooter drill, there are some definite drawbacks. In an educational newsletter written in March of 2019, such drills left teachers “more traumatized than trained,” said teacher Elizabeth Yanelli of Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. Yanelli recounted a traumatic scene of “colleagues shooting colleagues, we had people getting hit with [plastic] pellets…people were screaming, trying to run. People were tripping over each other. It was just horrendous.”

Some critics of simulated shooter drills say that simulated shooting drills could also give potential shooters ideas on how to make their plan a reality. If potential shooter(s) participate in the drills/simulation then they will see what the training of the police and students/staff looks like. They can also find loopholes in the training and find ways in which they can avoid certain situations with police. But according to Mr. Berrie, someone getting ideas from a shooting drill is a very low concern. “If a potential shooter really wanted to shoot a school, they wouldn’t need a drills; they’d just do it,” he said. “The greatest asset the school has is its students and if you hear or see anything, then you NEED to say something.”