School shootings in America are, sadly, not unusual occurrences. These days, schools and teachers all over the country practice lockdowns and conduct shooting drills, just as they do fire drills. The United States has witnessed over 2,300 mass shootings since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, according to the National Education Association, and gun violence is now the second-most-common cause of death for people ages 1 through 19 according to a recent report by the New England Journal of Medicine.
We spoke with one middle school teacher in Franklin, Tennessee who has been teaching for over two decades. The threat of a school shooting is something that is on his mind, and he says that’s true for his colleagues as well.
“It’s something we train for often,” says Randy Stevens of Freedom Middle School. “We had a S.W.A.T. team come in and do a surprise shooting drill while we were in a meeting recently and it scared the heck out of us. We had no idea they were coming and they even shot us with Nerf darts. One of my fellow teachers hurt his wrist falling to the floor he was so surprised.”
Stevens adds, “It’s expected of us to protect the children at all costs and so we have to know what to do if, God forbid, it actually happens here.”
He then offers, “One of the first school shootings that we all recall was what happened at Columbine and the police waited to go in, now things have changed. They now go in right away and eliminate the shooter without warning to spare as many lives as they can.”
In the drill, teachers are told that the first thing they need to do is to get the students out of the building if they can, if the shooter is inside; students are told to go to the neighborhood and seek shelter in a residential area. If the shooter is in the hall, the teachers are trained to barricade the doors to their rooms, turn out the lights.
Children are told to “see something, say something” and it works as two of the most recent shootings in California were stopped by students reporting on other students.
While there is some disagreement on the usefulness of shooter drills, The National Association of School Psychologists and the National Association of School Resource Officers have co-authored “Best Practice Considerations for Schools in Active Shooter and Other Armed Assailant Drills.”