Do kids really need school shooting drills?

A rdhhybenta
school district in Massachusetts is weighing whether to go ahead and teach students as young as 10 how to fight back against terrorists and Columbine-type shooters.

I guess officials there have not read the statistics.

A child’s chances of being killed at school are .00003% (not counting the ones who die of boredom). So teaching the kids how to use their books and backpacks as shields – or weapons – seems about as useful as teaching kids to duck under their desks in case of a nuclear attack.

On the other hand, there are some simple safety skills that really could benefit kids, if the schools would teach them. I was talking to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children the other day and they’ve studied how young people have gotten away in attempted abductions (which are extremely few and far between). These same skills can help kids get away from bullies and dicey acquaintances, too. The techniques boil down to yelling, throwing your hands in front of you like stop signs, screaming bloody murder and — this is key — running away. Also kids must learn that they have the right to say, “No!” to an anyone who wants them to do something disgusting, dangerous or unpleasant. (Besides taking out the garbage.) 

Seems like if we really want to keep kids safe, it makes more sense to teach them the basics of self defense than how to whomp an Uzi-wielding maniac with the Heritage of Ancient Civilizations, Part II: Greece and Rome.

Although, granted, sometimes those books do seem absolutely deadly.  — Lenore

29 Responses to Do kids really need school shooting drills?

  1. Anna December 15, 2008 at 6:12 am #

    Heritage of Ancient Civilizations, Part II: Greece and Rome? You mean that stuff is taught somewhere still? I want to move to that place! Here in California it seems that the schools hardly teach any history anymore.

  2. kherbert December 15, 2008 at 6:47 am #

    I agree completely. When I was in elementary school, a basic self defense course was part of PE. It helped save 1 child I know for sure and possibly 2 more.

    The possibles were my sister and her best friend. They were walking home and a man ordered them to come over to his car. Instead they did what we had been taught – they hopped to the other side of the ditch ran to a section of fence the could scale and jumped into the back yard of a neighbor. The neighbor brought them home.

    2 days later a girl was kidnapped for ransom from the playground sis and her friend had been coming from. The girl was grabbed and held long enough for 1 ransom call to be made, but manged to get way near a shopping center by jumping from the slowed car. She ran towards some older ladies screaming I don’t know you at the chasing man. The ladies pulled the girl to them and ran into a shop. The ladies in the shop hit the alarm and called the cops.

    The self defense course wasn’t scary boogie man type stuff. We were taught basic breaks, to scream fire, and stranger at the top of our lungs and run to a counter in a store/mall to a neighbor in the neighborhood. In 8th grade information on Date Rape was added, and practical things like drive to a police or fire station were added in drivers ed.

  3. Delia December 15, 2008 at 8:06 am #

    I really wish the school would focus on teaching our kids stuff they’re positively going to need in real life, like balancing a check book, buying insurance, price comparison shopping, that sort of thing. Though I have no problem with them learning self-defense- I wish they would teach them that- I see no point in some of their emergency drills. My childs elementary school holds a yearly evacuation drill – the natural disasters possible where we live are earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes – yet the drill involves the kids all marching down to the ocean! Yeah, really. I told my daughter that in the event of an emergency, run the opposite direction and take as many kids with her as possible to save them from the people who are supposed to be ‘helping’ them.

  4. Jennifer December 15, 2008 at 10:38 am #

    I don’t know the details about the school district in MA, but many schools are telling kids to fight back against an attacker. As we’ve learned both in school shootings and in the 9/11 attacks, many (most?) attackers aren’t looking for hostages who they’ll let go, they’re looking to murder as many people as possible as quickly as possible. If 30 kids fight back against someone with a gun, more are likely to survive than if they hid under their desk once the shooter comes into their room. You mention the same thing in your article. People who have studied rape victims and the ones who got away have found the same thing – the women who fight back are more likely to survive (or not get raped).

    Do you know that the skills they want to teach are so specific to a school shooter? Isn’t is possible that they’ve read the same information as you and plan to teach more basic self defense skills? If that is the case, is there really something here to be arguing against?

  5. Carol December 15, 2008 at 1:55 pm #

    women who run and don’t get caught absolutely survive. So yeah, if you can’t run, fight back. But run run run if at all possible.

    Gavin de Becker is still the best on this safety stuff.

  6. Stuart December 15, 2008 at 2:54 pm #

    Unless you happen to be better armed and/or wearing body armour, then the best chance you have for living is to run away.

    Telling children otherwise guarantees to reduce their chances of survival should they find themselves in this extremely rare circumstance.

    Banning poor food options and making children participate in physical activity would have far more tangible benefits than training them for an occurrence that is statistically improbable. Even mentioning to them that more people die every year from preventable causes than from ordinary crime, let alone terrorism, would help them to recognise and avoid real risks.

  7. Jennie December 15, 2008 at 8:22 pm #

    Yet another notch in the fear meters of kids. It’s nice to see them realise when to be wary, but honestly, with such odds, why fill their young minds with actual scenarios for them to turn into nightmares? Even if they are teaching basic self-defence it is hardly a sensible idea to frame it in the name of school shootings.

  8. Angeline December 15, 2008 at 8:28 pm #

    Boy, hearing about schools teaching this to kids just raises my blood pressure. I wrote an article about this subject too highlighting that the FBI has concluded this scare about school-shootings-as-an-epidemic is a bunch of hooey. And if the worry of school shootings is still nagging at you, it is worth reading the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation report “The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective”. You’ll realize what kind of specialized terrorist criminal a school shooter is and now exceedingly unlikely it would be to have one at your school. Furthermore, the FBI explains what schools can do to avoid creating an environment that would contribute to creating violent criminals. It has nothing to do with scaring the pants off all of the students. Read this:

  9. Sandra December 15, 2008 at 9:56 pm #

    Does my opinion about this come across strongly enough when I say


  10. jessica December 15, 2008 at 11:37 pm #

    Amen, sister!
    We started homeschooling because the schools were scaring my kids with all of their fear teachings.

  11. NJMom December 15, 2008 at 11:47 pm #

    Again, schools are over reacting–or rather just re-acting to–instead of being sensible and proactive. I was too young for the cold war hiding-under-a-desk-to keep-you-safe-from-fall-out drills, but my sister and husband weren’t. It scared my sister silly and my husband just thought, “This isn’t going to work!” Of course he was right.

    A common sense, not sensationalistic, course on personal safety in gym class would be very helpful, I think.

    Speaking of sensationalistic “safety” programs…does anyone want to talk about DARE?

  12. Casey December 16, 2008 at 12:09 am #

    Generally speaking I agree 100% with what Lenore has to say, but to be honest, this time I don’t fully. I do agree that self defense should be taught, and I also agree with what someone said about more basic skills like price comparison and balancing cheque books. However, I do think it’s a good idea to be prepared for any situation.

    This doesn’t mean fear mongering or focusing on terrible situations that might, but most likely won’t, happen; but it does mean being prepared for anything. These days are a little different at school, and I think it’s appropriate to spend a day learning about drills and “worst case senerios” and a few PE classes learning self defence for sure.

    Also, to the mom who told her child to “run the opposite way” – if you do want to keep your children in public school as opposed to home school, you should teach them to follow the advice at school, then tell the school that they are making a big mistake. If you speak up about the mistake they’re making, you could save all the kids instead of the ones your child would have to spend critical time trying most likely in vein to help.

  13. Tim December 16, 2008 at 2:50 am #

    I think Casey is on the right track. We are trying to raise free range kids. But as both my wife and I are former law enforcement, we would disagree with thinking kids will run away and that will save them. It hasn’t worked yet for the hundreds killed in school and business shootings.

    There is a reason no kid has been killed in a school fire in my lifetime. They drill, drill, drill. And on top of that there are overlapping levels of prevention (flame resistant building materials, chairs, tables), detection (smoke detectors everywhere) and manual alarms. Is this “fear mongering”? No, it’s smart. And it’s worked.

    You say it’s statistically negligible to prepare for this, yet it’s far more likely to happen than a school fire. So I say get them prepared. Think of it as empowering kids to have a voice in what happens to them. This is what is espoused on this site. Without the training, they are helpless/defenseless lambs. With the training, they at least have the option and knowledge to fight back.

    Lt. Col. Dave Grossman speaks at length about just these things. His information and studies regarding school shootings is the best around.

  14. damaged justice December 16, 2008 at 11:46 pm #

    it makes more sense to teach them the basics of self defense

    G-d bless you.

  15. Jane December 18, 2008 at 12:22 pm #

    My freshman year of high school was the first year they started having every student wear an ID badge, and every fire drill was now converted to an Emergency Evacuation drill, aka School Shooting.

    These drills required that every class march THROUGH THE SCHOOL to the football field, at least 500 yards away from the building with the most students in it at any time, and line up in their class’s designated yard line to be counted. Then, each teacher had to take roll and hold up a Green or Red sign to show if everyone was accounted for.

    First of all, they regulated that all disabled students be dismissed 10 minutes early, so they would have time to make it down the elevator and out to the football field. Because, you know, we always know when school shootings are going to happen 10 minutes ahead of time. On top of that, doesn’t gathering the entire student body in one centralized location seem like bad logic when you’re trying to avoid a massacre? Especially since we have to walk THROUGH the school to get to the football field…?

    As for the ID badges, aren’t most school shootings committed by students who actually attend the school? And therefore, would own ID badges and be able to display them if asked?

  16. ...tom... December 30, 2008 at 5:35 am #

    … seems about as useful as teaching kids to duck under their desks in case of a nuclear attack.

    Great comparison. That should bring it home to any older boomer.

    Unfortunately, many of the younger generation only have the image of Columbine to wrap around this idea.


  17. Dianne Stevens December 31, 2008 at 7:54 am #

    it makes more sense to teach them the basics of self defense

    Or, (or in addition to) you could teach kids to recognize bullying and how to step up and interrupt it when they see it happening. You could teach them compassion and how to recognize the signs of emotional anguish in another person. You could teach them to acknowledge difference and respect all their classmates. If you want to make your children more powerful in their world, show them that their own behavior and decisions can have an affect long before they are called to use their self-defense skills.

  18. RC December 31, 2008 at 8:02 am #

    … seems about as useful as teaching kids to duck under their desks in case of a nuclear attack.
    Great comparison. That should bring it home to any older boomer.

    Keep in mind, getting under your desk was so they could ID your body from the seating chart.

  19. Dianne Stevens December 31, 2008 at 8:06 am #

    er, have an effect
    Having an affect is, well, a whole ‘nother talent.

  20. bcostin December 31, 2008 at 10:34 am #

    Heh. It hasn’t been that long since a “school shooting drill” would have involved faculty teaching kids how to properly shoot the rifles their parents had bought them for Christmas.

    Their school shooting rationale may be strained, but the goal seems reasonable to me. It’s important for kids (and adults) to have some basic self-defense skills for whatever may happen. Right now most schools (and businesses) advise people to be passive and hope they don’t become a target. When bad stuff happens, hiding under your desk is only marginally more successful against roving gunmen than against nuclear weapons.

  21. anthonyb January 16, 2009 at 2:13 am #

    I just read this story and with all the concern about school shootings I wanted to pass on something I bought not only for myself who travels but I also bought one for my niece and nephew. A company in Boston called MJ Safety Solutions makes a bullet proof backpack called the my Childs pack. I originally wasn’t sold on the idea but with all the stories I have been reading about with swat teams practicing in schools this is obviously a real problem these days and decided to take a proactive measure with my sisters kids. I don’t know if anyone has had to use one of these bullet proof backpacks yet but if it saves one person the guys in Boston did a good thing. Their website is

  22. kindermom January 17, 2009 at 2:36 am #

    I’m torn on this topic. My daughter came home from school yesterday and told me that a boy on the bus had a gun and pointed it a her. Of course I was shocked and concerned and immediately called to report the incident. I assumed that it was probably a toy and that the boy had just used bad judement by bring it to school and then pointing it at my daughter. My assumption was correct, but in the eyes of my 5 yr old it was very, very real! The school has a zero tolerance policy on this and so he is suspended. I feel that his irresponsible decision to bring a toy gun to school should be addressed maybe not with a suspention (he isn’t a criminal) but with a safety class or something of that nature. In the wake of this event I felt that I should talk with my child about what happened. I this case I explained it was just a toy and she was in no real danger but, out of total curiousity I had to ask her what she would do if it had been real. Her response to my surpise was that she would take it away. Though I felt very proud and much validation in that I had done well in making her feel that empower, I also felt fear knowing my daughter’s own nievety. You don’t stand up to a gunman, especially the kind that comes to a school. I want her to protect herself get out of harms way. What then do you say to her? I know the chances are beyond slim that this will happen at HER school but chance is still a chance. I would like her to be better prepared then she was yesterday but I do not want her to lose her feeling of safety. What is a parent to teach their kids?

  23. terry etzinger February 20, 2009 at 9:26 am #

    hey im one of the kids thts in bucyrus,ohio and i have to agree with the fact that schools shouldnt use fear to teach this stuff to kids but im sick and tired of the fear method they use. i’ve lost 5 friends this year because thier parents feared a schoold shooting then some kid brought a gun to school luckily he was caught before he could use it but after that happend my 5 friends were withrawn from my school to home schooling and its rediculous. i mean how did this kid get the gun? that he shouldnt even legaly be able to even touch. im sick and tired of it and should be stopped. i would like to see a place where kids were nice to eachother instead of trying to kill eachother. it does scare me that this stuff happened in my school.

  24. terry etzinger February 20, 2009 at 9:29 am #

    but i will not withdraw from school and i will not give up on my school

  25. kids chair May 5, 2009 at 12:23 am #

    I have to say that it is pretty scary that we have to teach our children how to defend themselves against being shot or attacked in school. This was unheard of even when I was in school which was only about 15 years ago. How things change and unfortunately become worse. I do think that children should be aware of what to do to protect themselves , defintely at least should be taught basic self-defense skills.

  26. Mary August 7, 2009 at 1:15 am #

    I have to stronly disagree here. It’s great to live in denial that violence won’t happen in your child’s school- but it does, all the time, everyday.

    Every school practices fire drills regularly . Every carpet, desk, wood panelling in schools are fireproof. There are sprinklers in every room, every hall, every public area. We did a great job with that- not one student in America has been killed in a fire since 1942.

    Now here we are, faced with warning after warning after warning that violence and shootings are happening in our schools. Your child is more likely to be killed by another student than a fire.

    I think we need to get out of denial, even though it’s a great, happy place to be and teach our kids what we would want them to know if this happened in their school.

  27. Peter January 29, 2010 at 2:19 am #

    Thank you for bringing up such an important topic.

    However, I strongly disagree and don’t know how people feel when their own tragedies are trivialized with jokes about text books and “die(ing) of boredom.”

    I work in several schools and I know that children are taught about strangers, bullying and how to lockdown during a threat.

    On the lockdown procedure. Every year our schools train for fire drills, although it’s an old statistic, since 1942 there have been 0 deaths associated with school fires. That’s excelent and the drills help. They create a policy and procedure that helps build confidence and keeps children safe. Often these skills are carried into the rest of our lives. People know to leave a mall when they hear the fire alarm, but do so calmly…thank you kindergarten through high school fire drill.

    From 1992 to 2007 there were 500 deaths related to school violence. We as a society do not prepare our children for what to do when confronted by violence. It is not a pleasent topic, but neither is being trapped in a fire.

    I help coordinate the drills for 14 schools in my district. The children are not huddled, rocking in the corners, crying and begging for mommy to have the drill stop. They are in fact, respectful and enjoy building the barricades and often ask questions that tell me that even my kindergarteners, understand the importance of safety.

    I don’t know of any program that preaches engaging an “Uzi-weilding maniac with a Heritage of Ancient Civilizations, Part II: Greece and Rome” text book. But, if my child were stuck in a room with a crazed gun man, I would hope they would have the common sense to fight back until they could get away.

    Maybe just another useful skill they pick up in school. You know like interpreting statistics; (according to US Census for 2009) . Your 00003% of more than 50 million students is 1, 500 children. I’m sure those 1,500 families and friends wouldn’t have minded their childrens school stressing the importance of school violence.

    Please WAKE UP!!!

  28. car review September 9, 2010 at 6:02 pm #

    Amen, sister!
    We started homeschooling because the schools were scaring my kids with all of their fear teachings.


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