Following yet another school shooting on November 30, 2021, schools across the country need to take notice of the inadequacy of school shooting drills. Instead of creating a safe environment and actively helping students with their mental health, school systems are allowing for the continuous loss of life.
Prior to the pandemic, there was a consistent uptick in the number of school shootings per year, with 24 school shootings in 2018 and 2019 respectively. However, this dropped to 10 in 2020, due to the institution of remote learning in many school districts. This year there have already been 31 school shootings, one of the most recent at Oxford High School in Michigan, where four lives were lost and many sustained injuries. In total, 12 lives have been lost on school grounds across the country.
In response to shootings, schools have implemented active shooter drills in order to prepare students. However, there are many different perspectives regarding what these drills should include as well as their effectiveness. According to the Department of Homeland Security, when facing an active shooter, people should first attempt to evacuate, then hideout, and finally, take action if necessary. While the policy in most schools is to lock the classroom door, turn off the lights, and hide, some believe that more lives could be saved if people attempted to stop the shooter immediately. As a result, many schools have hired full-time campus police in order to maintain daily safety, and in extreme situations, face active shooters.
However, some believe that these active shooter drills cause many students extreme anxiety, and in some cases even spark thoughts of violence amongst students. NBC News reports that “nearly 28 million social media posts tied to 114 schools finds higher rates of depression and stress following active shooter drills.” Some schools play out scenarios of an active shooting, which has left many students traumatized and afraid to go to school.
While the reform of gun laws comes into play during many discussions regarding school shootings, it is more important and timely to address what schools can do to help immediately. In many cases, the shooter has expressed mental instability, and oftentimes has asked for help in some way prior to the shooting. At Oxford High School, for example, Ethan Crumbley was sent several times to the principal for behavior issues and was reported to have drawn violent pictures. According to Fox News, one of these pictures depicted a handgun with the words “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.” written on it.
Although these disturbing drawings should have brought about immediate concern and intervention, when Crumbley informed the guidance counselor that they were drawings for a video game, "at no time did counselors believe the student might harm others based on his behavior, responses and demeanor, which appeared calm," according to the school’s superintendent Tim Throne.
The lack of mental health awareness and support demonstrated in this scenario is present throughout the country. Not only do counselors and school staff need to be better educated on how to address situations such as these, but students also need to be educated on helping one another and themselves. No student should ever have to fear walking through the doors of their school on a daily basis.