maintained that the drills are necessary, as high-stress tests can be more accurate in identifying
flaws in emergency response plans.98 There is support from law enforcement officials as well,
who note that while it is tragic that such measures have to be taken, there is value in the
preparation for law enforcement officers, staff, and students.99 But with all of the terror and
trauma that these active shooter drills induce, it is hard not to wonder if simply frightening
students is enough to cause them to learn from the experience.100
B. Alternatives for Preparation
In lieu of taking such dramatic steps in the active shooter drills, some experts have noted
that it is more effective to provide students with instructions on how they should respond and
practice.101 The experts also noted that drills that did not use traumatic stimuli, such as fake blood
and gunshots, led to increased preparedness of the students and did not lead to heightened anxiety
or perceptions of schools being unsafe.102 Additionally, these results were consistent with drills
that were announced to students prior to their performance.103 The unannounced drills do not have
sufficient research to guide experts, but it is possible that for students and adults who suffer from
anxiety or have history of trauma, participation in unannounced drills without being properly
prepared could be incredibly distressing and mentally damaging.104
Along the lines of providing students with instructions, it may be more beneficial to use
presentations to students, perhaps even smaller workshops to ensure participation by every
student. Furthermore, the National Association of School Psychologists (“NASP”) recommends a
hierarchy of education and training.105 This means that when schools implement active shooter
drills, rather than jump directly into performing the full simulation drill, schools should progress
to that point.106 The NASP suggests that schools start off small, with simple, low-cost, discussion-based exercises.107 This could include introductions to crisis responders, presumably so that
students feel comfortable and safe should those responders arrive at their school and would be
more likely to follow their instructions.108 Schools could also use orientation activities or
a parent desperately advocating for active shooter drills in California, a state that has denied legislation for their mandate, in contrast
to the perspectives of other parents and researchers who disagree with the level of intensity of the drills).
98 McGuinness, supra note 92.
99 Bridget O’Shea, Active Shooter Drill Trains Cops, Staff, and Students at BHS, CHI. TRIB. (Mar. 20, 2015, 3:56 PM),
information on how a full-scale active shooter drill carried out with real gunshots with blank ammunitions, theatrical makeup, and
informed volunteers could be effective).
100 McGuiness, supra note 92.
101 Bronstein, supra note 1.
103 See id. But see Active Shooter Drill Underway in Clay County, NEWS 4 JAX (Mar. 13, 2015, 9:47 AM),
http://www.news4jax.com/news/active-shooter-drill-underway-in-clay-county/31775598 (announcing to the community that the active
shooter drill was taking place, but did not state what, if any, stimuli would be used). See also, Active Shooter Drills at Two Andover
Schools Today, KWCH12 (Apr. 17, 2015, 7:49 AM), http://www.kwch.com/news/local-news/Active-Shooter-Drills-at-two-Andover-
schools-today/32418612 (announcing that parents were forewarned that an active shooter drill was taking place, with the use of guns
and blank ammunitions, but students were not part of the drill). But cf. Illinois School Shooting Drill: Cary-Grove High School to Fire
Blanks in Hallway, Angering Parents, HUFFINGTON POST (Jan. 29, 2013, 2:07 PM),
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/29/illinois-school-shooting-drill-cary_n_2575023.html (noting that the active shooter drill
was preannounced in the form of letters sent to parents in order to avoid inducing student anxiety through its performance, however,
there was still a negative response from parents to the use of one traumatic stimuli, the gunshots, for the drill).
104 Bronstein, supra note 1.
105 See NAT’L ASS’N SCH. PSYCHOLOGISTS, BEST PRACTICE CONSIDERATIONS FOR SCHOOLS IN ACTIVE SHOOTER AND OTHER
ARMED ASSAILANT DRILLS 4–5 (2014), available at http://www.nasponline.org/resources/handouts/BP_Armed_Assailant_Drills.pdf
[hereinafter NASP REPORT].