DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And now we bring you an NPR exclusive. Today the nation's two largest educator unions are recommending that schools reconsider running active shooter drills. About 95% of American public schools have adopted some form of these drills, but there is little proof they are effective. And there's a growing concern that they can traumatize children. NPR's Anya Kamenetz has the story.
ANYA KAMENETZ, BYLINE: In an active shooter drill, sometimes called the lockdown, classroom doors are locked. Students sometimes practice hiding, running from or even defending themselves against an attacker. But fourth-grade teacher Abbey Clements says these drills are getting out of hand. Students aren't always warned. Some teachers have been shot with pellet guns.
ABBEY CLEMENTS: This is not OK. And this - we're not taking care of kids if we're doing this.
KAMENETZ: Clements was a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 when a shooter walked in and killed 26 people, mostly first-graders. She still teaches in Newtown, Conn. And she says her district doesn't use active shooter drills because they want to avoid scaring students. Instead, they focus on staff training and other safety measures.
CLEMENTS: If that is good enough for Newtown, shouldn't that be good enough for all districts across the country?
KAMENETZ: Clements is a member of the American Federation of Teachers and an activist with Everytown for Gun Safety. In a report out today, these groups, along with the National Education Association, say they do not recommend active shooter training for students in the absence of evidence that these drills keep schools safe. And if schools do choose to do these drills with students, they shouldn't be overly realistic and schools should get plenty of warning. Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the president of the NEA, says she's been hearing from her members as well as parents all over the country who are concerned about these drills.
LILY ESKELSEN GARCIA: We're seeing students terrorized. We're seeing students traumatized by something that was supposed to keep them safe.
KAMENETZ: Statistics show schools are some of the safest places for kids to be. And yet, the school security industry is reportedly worth almost $3 billion. Guy Grace is with the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools, an educator and industry coalition. He says that student participation in regular lockdown drills is key to violence preparedness.
GUY GRACE: It's not about scaring kids or scaring staff. It's about empowering staff and having them - giving them the ability to be able to respond to a multitude of situations.
KAMENETZ: But he agrees that simulations of violence aren't a good idea and that drills should never be unannounced.
GRACE: It shouldn't be something where it's all pure chaos.
KAMENETZ: Instead of relying on drills, the report is calling for schools to focus on prevention - measures like threat assessment and expanded mental health services. It also recommends schools spread the word about secure gun storage in the home.
Anya Kamenetz, NPR News.
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