Re-designing active shooter drills amid the pandemic

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — This year, the number of school shootings has dropped drastically because of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean schools can forget about active shooter drills.

Lockdown. Locks. Lights. Out of sight. This is a drill.

When students hear those words over the loudspeaker, they know what it means. Active shooter drill.

New York State requires four lockdown drills each year. Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at SUNY Oswego, Jaclyn Schildkraut, is in the process of redesigning the protocols with the Syracuse City School District.

Now groups are split into pods. So where a school would normally conduct four lockdown drills every year, if they’ve got pods, a group coming Monday/Tuesday and another group coming Thursday/Friday, they’re effectively having to do twice as many drills because each group needs to go through four.

Jaclyn Schildkraut

Even though there haven’t been as many school shootings this year, the New York State Education Department isn’t letting these drills slip through the cracks.

We’re probably I would say less than half a dozen and that’s ultimately in part because schools have largely not been in session this year. When we think about mass shootings in schools happening, it’s usually a function of like a student harming other students, either a current or former student. It’s effectively removed the opportunity for those types of crimes or incidents to happen because if nobody is there, there’s nobody to harm. So we’re seeing it manifest in other ways.

Jaclyn Schildkraut

When everyone is back in the classroom and the opportunity does come, Schildkraut wants students to be prepared for the unthinkable.

“Your brain checks out, your cognitive functioning is impaired by stress,” said Schildkraut. “Certainly, we’re trying to balance the need to have students continue to develop this muscle memory versus the need to not have them contract COVID.”

Schildkraut said there are different ways to conduct the drills safely. Either right at a student’s desk, watching videos, “or as we’re planning out with SCSD is doing it on a smaller scale where even these smaller groups are then broken up into other groups,” she said.

Even before the pandemic, there were fears active shooter drills could instill fear and anxiety in children. Schildkraut said it’s more about how the drills are conducted and less about the drill itself.

I always say we want to plan today and prepare today for how we will respond tomorrow. We, unfortunately, don’t live in a society where we can continue to say ‘it’ll never happen here.’

Jaclyn Schildkraut

If the worst day does happen here, Schildkraut hopes muscle memory will kick in and students will be prepared.

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