School Lockdown Drills
Adopted March 21, 2023
Description: Currently, forty states in the United States require school lockdown drills1. In Vermont, at least three “options-based’ lock-down drills are required each year2. There is little evidence supporting the use of school lock down drills to prevent injury and mortality from school shooters1. Furthermore, there is a lack of consistency in drills across the nation and within Vermont1,2,3.
While there has been minimal research on the mental health impacts of school lockdown drills, a recent study found prolonged disruptions in student and teacher wellbeing following a lockdown drill4. Researchers at Everytown and Georgia Tech found a 42% increase in anxiety and stress from pre to post drill and a 39% increase in depression1,4. These findings were still prevalent 90 days following the drill1,4. Impacts were noted in elementary, middle, and high school students. These impacts affect other aspects of individual’s lives such as one’s social situation, going to work and concerns for physical health1,4.
Another study assessed feelings of preparedness and safety in a community with a high rate of violence following lockdown drills. Following a lock-down drill, students report feeling less safe in the school5. Biracial or multiracial students were significantly less likely to report feeling safe following a drill compared to black students5. Black students were also significantly less likely to report feeling safe compared to white and Asian students5. These drills impact individuals of different races, ethnicities, and backgrounds differently. These drills are harmful to the wellbeing of our youth.
Only 73% of schools in Vermont offer on-site mental health services,3 leaving students who are significantly impacted by these drills with no school-based help. There is no way to identify youth at-risk for significant harm from such drills in these schools.
Policy Statement: The Vermont Public Health Association acknowledges the importance of evidence-based school safety and supports efforts to ensure that the mental and physical wellbeing of youth are protected while at school.
Supported Actions: The Vermont Public Health Association supports actions related to providing schools with evidence-based lockdown drill procedures and protecting the mental wellbeing of the school community.
A moratorium on active shooter drills and options-based trainings which involve children should be instituted until more research is available on the effectiveness of this strategy and the mental health impacts of these trainings.
Should school districts choose to continue with active shooter drills in the absence of clear evidence for their effectiveness, we recommend that each school district has in place policies and procedures that:
Increased Focus on Mental Health in Schools
Increased attention to mental health impacts of lockdown drills
Evidence-based school lockdown drills
1. The impact of active shooter drills in schools. Everytown Research & Policy. https://everytownresearch.org/report/the-impact-of-active-shooter-drills-in-schools/?_gl=1%2A10y5crp%2A_ga%2AMTQ0MDAxNDUyNy4xNjYyNTU5OTA1%2A_ga_LT0FWV3EK3%2AMTY2MjU1OTkwNi4xLjAuMTY2MjU1OTkwNi4wLjAuMA.. Published May 18, 2022. Accessed October 2, 2022.
2. French D, Desrochers M. Home Page: Division of Fire Safety. New Guidance regarding Egress Evacuation and Options Based Response Drills. https://firesafety.vermont.gov/. Published July 2022. Accessed October 2, 2022.
3. School Safety Advisory Group. Report on School Safety Best Practices. Vermont General Assembly. https://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Legislative-Reports/SSAG-Leg-Report-Final-w-Attachments.pdf. Published December 2018. Accessed October 2, 2022.4. ElSherief, M., Saha, K., Gupta, P. et al. Impacts of school shooter drills on the psychological well-being of American K-12 school communities: a social media study. Humanit Soc Sci Commun 8, 315 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-021-00993-6
6. Best practice considerations for armed assailant drills in schools. National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) & National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO). https://ycesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Armed-Assailant-Guide-Revised-SEPT-2021.pdf. Published 2017. Accessed January 20, 2023.
7. Mitigating psychological effects of Lockdowns. National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/school-safety-and-crisis/systems-level-prevention/mitigating-psychological-effects-of-lockdowns#:~:text=Communicate%20clearly%20during%20the%20lockdown,and%20social%20media%20as%20appropriate. Accessed January 20, 2023.
8. Cowan K, Vaillancourt K, Rossen E, Pollitt K. A framework for safe and successful schools [Brief]. National Association of School Psychologists. https://www.naesp.org/sites/default/files/Framework%20for%20Safe%20and%20Successful%20School%20Environments_FINAL_0.pdf. Published 2013. Accessed January 20, 2023.
9. School Safety Drill Research Act of 2021. H.R. 3421, 117th Cong. 1st session (2021).
About the association
VtPHA is a membership organization which facilitates collaboration among people who care about public health and are interested in protecting and promoting the health of Vermont residents.
VtPHA is an Affiliate of the American Public Health Association (APHA). APHA is the national voice of public health and champions the health of all people and all communities. They are the only organization that combines a 140-plus year perspective, the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health and a member community from all public health disciplines and over 40 countries. Learn more at www.apha.org.
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