Hey Kids! School Needs Volunteers to Play Massacre Victims

Folks zdfzdarizn
— Sometimes I’m just stunned by what our culture chooses to focus on. See below. And remember, as you read this, that one of the places children are very SAFEST is at school. — L
Dear Free-Range Kids: I live in NJ where the current governor has been slashing the education budget like the chainsaw massacre killer. So, what is my district spending money on these days?  That’s right, an active shooter drill. Because, you know, Columbines happen all the time.
This is a suburb that is chock full of supermoms and security nuts.  But the principal is asking for volunteers to act out this remote scenario and doesn’t appear to see the irony that  “rubber ammunition” will be used.  It’s the most bizarre email I’ve gotten this year and I thought the last one forbidding high school students from using Super Soakers to play Assassins was stupid.  So, let me get this straight: It is NOT okay for 16-year-olds to douse unsuspecting students with Super Soakers when they are off of school property because the water gun looks “too realistic” and the cops can’t tell the difference between it and a Glock. But it is PERFECTLY okay to ask for student volunteers to play the victims of a drill where rubber bullets and realistic sights and sounds of a mass murder in progress will be used.
I’m the one with the problem, right? I’ll bet some administrative assistant’s job was cut to help pay for this nonsense. – A Mystified Jersey Mom
Subject: Active Shooter Drill at High School on 6/24. Student volunteers requested. See website or email for details.
General – Email Only
Complete Message: On Friday, June 24, 2011, our high school will be conducting an Active Shooter Drill at the school in conjunction with the Police Department, the Office of Emergency Management, the Rescue Squad, and the district Community Emergency Response Team members. The purpose of this drill is to provide a simulated training activity to help emergency responders prepare for an actual emergency in any school setting..To make this a productive and authentic training activity, student volunteers are needed.The drill will run from approximately 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM. Because this will be a training exercise for the police, rubber ammunition will be used, and the sights and sounds will be very authentic and potentially upsetting. Student volunteers will not be utilized in any way that may cause injury and will mostly serve as students in a typical classroom setting under lockdown conditions or as students with simulated injuries to which the EMS and CERT members can respond.Current high school students, including graduating seniors, are welcome to attend. Students who are involved in this drill will earn certificates for four hours of community service. A permission slip is required for participation in this activity, and submission of the permission slip is how students will officially be signed up. Permission slips are available on the website and in the office, as well as in the email attached to this Instant Alert. Completed permission slips must be submitted by Friday, June 17, in the first floor office.Thank you for your willingness to help our schools and emergency responders train effectively to keep everyone safe.

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90 Responses to Hey Kids! School Needs Volunteers to Play Massacre Victims

  1. Amy June 16, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    Well, not to defend the school system that’s slashing budgets, but that sounds more like a training exercise for the police/ambulance/etc. and not a drill for the students (like a fire drill or a tornado drill).

    Fire departments, police departments, and other emergency responders do these sorts of things routinely, as part of their ongoing training and education programs. Fire departments will burn down condemned houses in order to hone their skills, for example.

    Yes, it’s bizarre that they’re asking for student volunteers, but it clearly states that the event could be traumatic. So don’t send your drama-prone 14 year old who cried at the end of Tangled. But if you have a 17 year old who wants to be a police officer, this might be a cool opportunity for him/her to 1) help the community, and 2) earn community service credit.

    I also don’t imagine that there’s any cost to the school system to participate in this training exercise. I would guess that the police/EMTs/etc. will be paying for their own personnel and rubber bullets.

    I would have a real problem with this if it were occurring during the regular school year, and if all students who attended school that day were going to be involved, however, that’s not what is going on. It’s summer break. No one HAS to be there who doesn’t want to be.

  2. Linda Wightman June 16, 2011 at 8:45 pm #

    All I can say is I know some grandsons (ages 7 and 5) who would be the first to volunteer! Then they would be disappointed when they discovered they wouldn’t be the ones with the guns. As a training for students in case of a Columbine situation — bad idea. But as an exercise for the police — well, I think most students would find it cool.

    I would be shocked if the school district is paying for this. Seems to me it would come from the police training budget.

  3. Chris June 16, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

    When I read Jersey Mom’s letter I was ready to blast the school as reactionary nut jobs. But, after reading the email, I’m not so sure. After all, it doesn’t read like this drill is something a paranoid principal thought up but more like the police, etc. were planning on having this drill and were looking for a school to help out. The whole school isn’t involved, only student volunteers.

    And before anyone starts demanding why a school shooting drill is necessary, remember that these types of drills aren’t just applicable to that exact scenario – the drills are designed to put the rescue services under emotional stress to see how they perform. And a school shooting would be pretty emotional.

    Eons ago, an EMT friend told me about all the wild scenarios they were drilled on. Anything with lots of shouting, noise and crying was fair game.

    I totally agree that a Super Soaker ban is pretty ridiculous though!

  4. kherbert June 16, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    Ok a couple of things
    1. What the kids were doing off campus was NOT the district’s business and they should be told that.
    2. The use of rubber bullets is stupid because they can injure and even kill someone
    3. This – live in NJ where the current governor has been slashing the education budget like the chainsaw massacre killer. So, what is my district spending money on these days? That’s right, an active shooter drill. Because, you know, Columbines happen all the time. and live in NJ where the current governor has been slashing the education budget like the chainsaw massacre killer. So, what is my district spending money on these days? That’s right, an active shooter drill. Because, you know, Columbines happen all the time. are a Strawman argument

    In all likelyhood this drill was paid for by the police department NOT the school.

    from the e-mail
    Active Shooter Drill at the school in conjunction with the Police Department, the Office of Emergency Management, the Rescue Squad, and the district Community Emergency Response Team members.

    I suspect the money from this came from one of a series of federal grants to improve local 1st responder responses to emergency. I commend the principal for holding this OUTSIDE of school hours with VOLUNTEERS.

    Year before last my school held several drills as part of one of these federal grants (don’t worry no-one shot plastic bullets at elementary kids). The results of the drill resulted in new training for our teachers. (For example if our classrooms were hit by a tornado what do we do to protect our students/get them to shelter if the storm continued. We live in area were tornadoes are not rare)

    Last spring these drills helped protect our kids. 2nd grade was coming in from recess, 3rd grade was going out. At the same time an armed man ran across the playground with the police behind him. He had just robbed a store and shot at the clerk. He ran around the building.

    The teachers followed the procedures we had for being on the playground and someone with a weapon. We went into our 3rd real lock down in 10 years. After the police and administrators search the building and determined he had not come inside. We went to yellow and were allowed to to get our lunches. There were police on campus until the caught him. They weren’t looking stern and scaring kindergartners. One of my girls was in tears because, “Mr. Principal wouldn’t have a drill this close to TAKS (it was the week before).” Two different officers walked up and – — SHOCK hugged my student. They looked this 4th grader in the eye and said he is gone – we but we are staying here till the other officers catch him. They did.

    Oh the other 2 real lockdowns. One was called when a student saw a man “with a gun” beating a women just off campus. The gun turned out to be an old style brick of a cell phone. The woman got treatment and according to the kids that live in the apartments an RO against her abuser. The other was called when an out of control parent broke a teacher’s nose and went running through the school hitting any staff member she saw. The teacher had sent the child home on the bus – LIKE THE PAPER WORK SAID TO. The parent had decided to pick up the child but didn’t send a note or call the school. She told the 4 yo who never said anything to the teacher.. That is why we require a note or a call.

  5. Uly June 16, 2011 at 9:14 pm #

    Actually, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for a school to forbid students from using super soakers – or any other sort of water gun – in school. I mean, isn’t that not just a distraction but damaging to the books and computers and whatnot?

  6. coffeegod June 16, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    I dunno…kinda sounds like fun to me. Elementary or middle school? Don’t think so but high school kids? Yeah….

  7. Tuppence June 16, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    Remember the story of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” ? The Grinch seeks to “86” the holiday in Whoville by stealing all the presents and every last bit of Christmas schnick schnack from all the Whos in Whoville, thinking that without all that stuff, those Whos would just give up the ghost. But he was wrong. The Whos didn’t let the huge disappointment of waking up to no presents, no decorations, or any lovely food stop them. They carried on as they normally would. And by doing so, the Whos showed the hater he couldn’t win. They went forward with Christmas anyway, and ol’ Grinch had to realize the folly of his plan. It made him realize he’d been angry and confused. And he changed his ways.

    Could those confused, angry boys in Columbine have dreamed of a more complete triumph? How much influence have their actions been able to wield? Unlike the Whos of Whoville, the jerseyites of Jersey, have let the haters “steal” their sense of security, their sense of community and, quite frankly, their Sense, comma, common.

  8. Anthony June 16, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

    Are my posts not working today?

  9. Anthony June 16, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

    Okay finally, I’ve been trying to submit for like a year!

    I think this might be a fun thing for kids to learn, and a good experience for the police.


  10. dmd June 16, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

    Have to agree with everyone here. While Columbines do not happen regularly, it is important for emergency personnel to be prepared for all kinds of situations, including those with guns and including those that happen at a school. Authentic simulations are much better than computer-generated ones.

    And I agree – my 9 year old would LOVE this.

  11. Cheryl W June 16, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    Rubber bullets are a bit disturbing to me. There are alternatives, but maybe they cost too much. Remember the lazer tag things that the kids used to be able to get that had a light sensitive tag to tell when they get shot? Get their practice firing their guns at the shooting range.

  12. Brownie June 16, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

    At first I thought that it was crazy to do this. And then I read the email and I have to agree with the majority of the comments: it looks like a law enforcement practice.

    Would I do it? No….. I’m afraid my bladder be able to tell the difference with practice terror and the real thing.

    Would my husband do it? YES! In a heartbeat.

  13. Sarah June 16, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    I was in a drill kind of like this when I was in high school. It was a plane crash though, not an active shooter. I got to be one of the victims, and ride in an ambulance, get “checked out” at the hospital, etc.

    I thought it was really fun, and from what I remember, it was mainly just for the EMTs and police to practice. It didn’t really have anything to do with students, other than we were used as, ahem, bodies, for the whole thing.

    My friend got the role of a dead person on the runway, haha!

  14. Me June 16, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    As the wife of a first responder they drill constantly. They stage small drills in their houses when they’re on duty (jump out the third story window anyone?), they have giant staged rescues using buildings and offices downtown, they even helped demolish a captain’s old shed to practice using their axes to enter a home. I think the drill sounds completely normal (as is the call for volunteers).

    However telling students they can’t use super soakers OFF campus makes no sense beyond a “hey don’t be a dumbass” warning…which it seems a number of teenagers in some towns could benefit from these days…all of which results from not being allowed to pay the natural consequences from your actions as a younger child. Ahhh the death of common sense. Common sense…I miss you.

  15. Library Diva June 16, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

    As a teen, my girl scout troop helped with a simulated plane crash drill. It was a lot of fun, actually!

    I’m more upset about the local school district’s plans to install security cameras all over the grounds of their schools. They’re cutting programs and laying off teachers, but there’s money for this, in one of the safest communities in the nation.

  16. Me June 16, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

    My post above should say “As the wife of a first responder, I know they drill constantly” gah I should not try to make sense before the 5th or 6th cup of coffee.

    Also @Library Diva and not to mention what creates safe communities…educated people, not video taped people!

  17. Meinin June 16, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

    The thing is – you can prepare for Another Columbine all you want. Columbine was unexpected and unpresedented. How do you prepare for insanity?

    I was a nuclear attact drill kid. Hide in the hall, climb under your desk. Hopefully those who buildt bomb shelters in their backyards will get home to it. The rest of you can rot.

    Part of the Columbine craziness was the balme, blame, blame that went on. Like anyone could have predicted something like would happen!

    Imagine if someone HAD somehow dreamed up a Columbine scenario, and made everyone drill, drill, drill for it. Suppose now some smart person DOES dream up another before unheard of thing and makes everyone drill for it – just in case.

    The Lutheran minister who suggested grieving Columbine parents have compassion for the parents of the shooters was FORCED TO RESIGN. It IS what Jesus Would Have Done, but grieving parents KNOW better than Jesus. Jesus himself would have been thrown out of his own church for preaching compassion or forgiveness.

  18. Dragonwolf June 16, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    Yeah, I agree with the others, this looks like a emergency responders’ training, and I’d venture to guess it’s happening after school has ended.

    As for the issues with the rubber bullets and someone’s suggestions for laser tag guns – the email states that they’re using rubber bullets for the realism (since the whole point is to get as close as possible to the real thing in order to work up emotions and whatnot). I’d venture to guess headshots aren’t allowed and people will be wearing some kind of basic body armor, but I’m not in law enforcement, so someone who is would have to confirm that for me.

    It kind of reminds me of the SADD mock accidents before prom/homecoming. While they were just as much for the students, the ones we had also made for good practice for the responders, since everything was specifically designed to simulate a real accident, including the time it took to respond.

  19. bdh June 16, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

    The only disturbing part of this article is the school telling the kids what they can or can not play with off school grounds. That is none of their business.

    Call me crazy, but I like to have emergency personnel well trained and prepared for many varying situations. That does seem like common sense.

  20. Dragonwolf June 16, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    Meinin – While I agree with what you say regarding Columbine itself (it was actually a semi-failed domestic terrorism attempt), school shootings are actually somewhat more common than you might think. While they’re not “common” in the sense that car accidents are, they aren’t unheard of, and weren’t even before Columbine. Technically, Columbine wasn’t even the worst as far as body count when it happened (ie, not including VT). In fact, there averages out to be a couple a year, especially in the recent past couple of decades.

  21. Heartfruit June 16, 2011 at 11:25 pm #

    Like many my first thought was that this was crazy. Then I looked at the date the drill would take place. I assume this will be after classes end for the summer and there for will be mostly for emergency personal. For a student who was interested in pursuing a career in policing or related fields, it might even be a good opportunity.

  22. gap-runner June 16, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

    I work on a military base in Germany. Every year the local German and US military police do a mass casualty exercise together. Volunteers playing the injured or dead people are recruited from both the local German community and Americans working on base. The idea is to give the police and other emergency responders (fire dept, hospital and ambulance personnel) practice in handling a mass casualty incident. Both police departments and other emergency workers get some experience working with “injured” people who may not speak their language. Each year there is a different scenario: a fire at a local club, or a bombing at the train station are a few examples.

    It sounds like this school exercise is a lot like our yearly mass casualty exercise. It gives the police and other first responders experience in a practice situation that will help them if a real incident of this sort happens.

  23. pentamom June 16, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    I think I’m agreeing with the majority here. In fact, the application of “active shooter drill” isn’t limited to a school setting, so I’m not sure we should assume that this is only about Columbine-type situations — it can be used for training responders in any large building (think office building or army base) where a shooter might enter and wreak havoc.

    And though these things are not as common as sneezes, they DO happen and public safety and law enforcement SHOULD train for them. It sounds like the students are not being trained how to react, but the officers are being trained how to respond, which is definitely a necessary thing. In fact, the article contains the lines:

    “The purpose of this drill is to provide a simulated training activity to help emergency responders prepare for an actual emergency in any school setting.”


    “Because this will be a training exercise for the police,”

    so this actually isn’t about training kids how to deal with Columbine II, it’s about training police how to respond to shooter situations. Which is, after all, part of their job.

    It IS rank stupidity when you juxtapose this against banning students from using squirt guns off school property (which utterly boggles my mind — is this referring to some kind of school sponsored event? Because they can’t possibly be banning kids from using them in their own backyards), but the problem isn’t with the exercise, it’s with the idiotic ban.

  24. Stephanie June 16, 2011 at 11:49 pm #

    Meh… This isn’t too bad. At least not in comparison to what a local school district (also in NJ, by the way) pulled a few years ago. An unannounced school shooter drill in the PRESCHOOL (though fortunately not while school was actually in session):


    That article is in archives now, so you can’t read the whole thing. But that could have gone HORRIBLY wrong. Everything though it was for real. What if someone had died of a heart attack? Or what if a heroic teacher decided to defend themselves and wound up killing the actor who was playing the shooter? I feel like either of those scenerios is actually way more likely than a school shooting ACTUALLY happening in the preschool, of all places.

  25. Stephanie June 16, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

    Also: I have no idea what the outcome of the lawsuit was, or how severely injured the plaintiff actually was during the drill, so I don’t know whether I think a lawsuit was warranted or not. But I do think that they should have given the teachers some sort of warning to prevent the scenerios that I mentioned in my previous post. And the point of mentioning that story is to point out the fact that at least the school district in the original post (a) gave everyone a heads-up about the drill and (b) was only including people who actually volunteered to help.

  26. Chris M June 16, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

    I think this is a good idea. To the point some are making about the rare nature of these events, keep in mind that emergency personnel train for rare events all the time. With regard to Columbine, the way we deal with these situations changed drastically, and people need to be trained on this.

    While it may be happening at a school, this can also happen in workplaces and other public areas – this training isn’t necessarily school-specific. Having police equipped and willing to expose our kids to this is a win, in some sense, for free-range parents.

  27. Marie June 17, 2011 at 12:00 am #

    This doesn’t bug me either. I wouldn’t volunteer for it myself, I’ve been robbed at gunpoint in the past and really don’t need those memories stirred up, but if my kids were old enough and wanted to go, I’d let them.

  28. Dolly June 17, 2011 at 12:03 am #

    This is absurd and overkill. If any student has actually been a victim of violence in the past this kind of thing could cause panic attacks or flashbacks. Not smart. Same thing for kids with anxiety or stress issues. Even if they know it is fake it can still upset them. Not to mention-rubber bullets can still hurt people. Brandon Lee was killed by fake ammunition. So yeah…my kid would not be going to school that day and they would be sorry if they hassled us about that too.

    I have no problem with having a plan or seminar to teach the kids what to do if this happens. Just like a tornado drill. But this is way overkill. After Columbine I was still in high school. We did a memorial service and planted a tree for the school. Then we did do some drills where the students were taught to get into a classroom, the teacher would lock the door and cover the windows and the students would get down in the corner away from windows. That is really all you need to teach the kids.

  29. Dolly June 17, 2011 at 12:12 am #

    I am in agreement with others that the school has ZERO business telling students what to do off campus and not during school hours. They try to do that all the time, but it is not their place. That is the parent’s place and if something is illegal the police can deal with it. Not the school’s job. They can only boss my kid during school hours on school property.

    I had a friend who after school one day took a pie from his house, walked down the road to a girl’s house he didn’t like, rang her doorbell and when she answered the door he threw the pie in her face. Not a nice thing to do. But that was for the parents to handle and if that didn’t take care of it, get the police involved. However, that was not how it went down. The mother called the school and told them about it and the boy was suspended from school for doing something after school hours and not on school property. That was not their place. I was in elementary school and even then I called bull on that! If I was his parents I would have fought it. They had a right to discipline their son as they saw fit without him suffering consequences at school. He was kinda a hellion little boy but his parents were your average nice suburban parents and I think they would have dealt with it. But the school did not give them the opportunity to do so.

  30. KateNonymous June 17, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    Lenore, I hope you were expecting this kind of a reaction. Otherwise I’m not sure why you shared this story, which doesn’t seem to have anything to do with free-range issues (while I agree that the thing about super-soakers off campus silly, that is NOT the focus of this letter).

    Personally, I think it’s possible to overreact in a lot of directions, and this is a good example. The writer doesn’t seem to have read the memo in question, or she’d notice the same things other commenters have: chiefly, that this is a drill for the police, in which students are invited to participate, not a drill for the students. It’s a police training exercise, not something equivalent to a fire drill.

    Surely one of the key points of Free Range is to try to avoid knee-jerk reactions. This is one we could all have been spared.

  31. Hels June 17, 2011 at 12:45 am #

    I think this is a police exercise and school has just been selected to be the training ground.

    I have volunteered for a similar exercise when I was in school and got to play the shooting victim. It was a bit uncomfortable to be carried around like a dead body, but the hardest thing was not to laugh.

    I have also participated in other types of emergency drills, both through my university and through Red Cross, and usually teens like participating in this type of event. It’s more exciting than the public health emergency, which was useful for us as professionals to see how to best set up medication stations, but public really had little to do other than crowd around.

  32. kherbert June 17, 2011 at 12:45 am #

    A couple more thoughts. I’m betting that the school is being used because it is a big space with lots of little rooms that is EMPTY and UNUSED during the summer.

    Also given the letter writer’s interpretation of this e-mail, I would love to see what was sent out about the super soakers. Was it

    1. Students are using super soakers on each other at the bus stop (courts have ruled that schools are libel for injuries/bullying that happens at the bus stop for school run buses. Yes it is stupid but that is what they have done)

    2. Was it a notice sent out by the POLICE through the school that they have complaints from citizens that they have been attacked/soaked by teenagers and that soaking down bystanders who are simply trying to walk down the street is a form of assult and can result in arrest.

    Believe me if I was just minding my own business in a public place and someone soaked me down with a super soaker there would be HELL to pay – especially if my phone, laptop, or Ipad were damaged. If the person/family did not immediately offer to replace my equipment at current cost, I would be pressing charges.

    When I was in HS the local police departments would often send out notices to parents through the school about the potential cost of parents hosting keg parties.

    Many third parties send out information to families through schools,. Current law is that if any 3rd party including the PTO can send out information through the school all 3rd parties can. The 3rd party has print them up including a disclaimer at the bottom saying this is not a (School district name) sponsored event. They have to precount them in bundles. All staff or student helpers have to do is toss them into the teachers’ boxes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an angry parent complain about a flier (usually from a church) that went home. I just point out the disclaimer at the bottom.

  33. gap-runner June 17, 2011 at 12:45 am #

    @ Dolly, It’s not “absurd and overkill” because the students would be voluntarily participating in the exercise. They need a signed consent form from their parents. If the parents feel that their child is too sensitive or has anxiety/stress issues, then they don’t have to sign the consent form. It’s your right as a parent not to let your kids participate. Also, if the child simply doesn’t care to be part of the exercise, he can stay home. The high school kids aren’t being compelled to participate. The e-mail specifically says that they’re looking for student volunteers. By the way, it’s taking place in late June, so keeping your kids out of school that day isn’t an issue. It’s during summer vacation in the States.

  34. Dolly June 17, 2011 at 1:03 am #

    Yeah I apologize. I did not read as closely as I should. If it is 100% voluntary and they need parent’s permission and not during school day, then I really don’t care. I personally would not let my kids participate.

  35. Tuppence June 17, 2011 at 1:18 am #

    Umm people it clearly states: “to provide a simulated training activity to help emergency responders prepare for an actual emergency in any school setting.”

    Read: school setting. Lenore got it right: They are clearly putting lots o’ time, money and effort into gearing up for the next Columbine. Gap-runner — you work on a MILITARY BASE. I for one, would like a clear distinction to be made between a school and a military base. One exists for the express purpose of military action. Makes sense then, that these kinds of exercises would take place there. The other didn’t used to.

    Imagining your child’s school is just a time-bomb waiting to explode, wait scratch that — assuming! — your child’s school is a time-bomb waiting to explode is worse case thinking! Free range issue. Also, the mindset that assumes these shoot ’em ups are inevitable creates sinister side effects: Every child carrying a pocket knife or a lighter, or pointy pencil, is carrying a “weapon” that will be used to kill, every child who acts out (in what our day was perhaps worth an hour of after-school detention) is a potential mass murderer and must be immediately expelled from school.

    It really gives me pause that a lot of you have written that this would “be fun” for your kids. Either you think this makes sense because it’s likely to happen — and then what in God’s name could be funny about that? Or you don’t and can therefore be lighthearted about. But if it’s not likely, is squandering a lot of precious tax dollars worth a little fun for your kid? Let them go to paintball.

  36. EricS June 17, 2011 at 1:26 am #

    I have mixed feelings about this. 1. It does serve a purpose. Just like Tornado drills. 2. It also serves as a constant reminder (unnecessarily albeit) of the “constant dangers” today. It perpetuates the fear people already have. Yes incidences like Columbine can and has happened. But in the broad scheme of things, it is still a pretty rare incident.

    I don’t think Lenore meant this post as an “in your face” blog. But rather the mentality of people when it comes to their own needs and desires. To me when I read this I think of the “me, me, me” mentality. It’s what the adults want, what makes them feel better about themselves and their decisions. They pick and choose what they want to address. Hardly ever based on common sense and logic, and more on emotions. How else does one see Super Soakers as a threat, and not solid rubber bullets. How does one see the joy and laughter of kids playing with water guns, with a mock scenario of a shoot out in a school. That’s like scolding your children for playing Street Fighter on their PS3, but teach them how to punch someone in the nose if they bully you.

    I’m sure the parents mean well. But EVERYTHING needs to be consistent, and not contradictory. And always, always, use your head over your heart in making decisions that require common sense and logic.

  37. EricS June 17, 2011 at 1:28 am #

    @ Tuppence. That’s another way of putting it. Good post.

  38. angie June 17, 2011 at 1:29 am #

    I think reading comprehension lessons are in order. What is the big deal here? It looks like its been set up by the police and not the school district (the school has been asked to participate). Not only is it not set up by the school, but it clearly states “will not be utilized in any way that may cause injury and will mostly serve as students in a typical classroom setting under lockdown conditions or as students with simulated injuries to which the EMS and CERT members can respond.” Which means they won’t be in place to be hit by any ammunition. I’ve participated in similar scenarios in the past and it’s mostly just laying around until “help” arrives and then trying not to laugh as they simulate CPR on you. As to the point of : “Super Soakers to play Assassins was stupid. So, let me get this straight: It is NOT okay for 16-year-olds to douse unsuspecting students with Super Soakers when they are off of school property because the water gun looks “too realistic” and the cops can’t tell the difference between it and a Glock”. The posters understanding of that email is also suspect as the poster did such a wonderful job in reading this one. This is yet another example of blowing things out of proportion without considering what is actually happening (anyone want to go spray paint people wearing fake fur coats).

  39. Bill Noren June 17, 2011 at 1:36 am #

    Excuse me, but this kind of excercise is absurd and ridiculous. Leave the kids alone.

  40. Dolly June 17, 2011 at 1:36 am #

    I never see realistic looking water guns. They mostly stopped making toy guns that look realistic after some kids got shot by the cops when they thought it was a real weapon. Now they are almost all neon orange, green, pink, red and yellow colors so that they are obviously not real guns.

  41. pentamom June 17, 2011 at 2:09 am #

    “Believe me if I was just minding my own business in a public place and someone soaked me down with a super soaker there would be HELL to pay – especially if my phone, laptop, or Ipad were damaged. If the person/family did not immediately offer to replace my equipment at current cost, I would be pressing charges. ”

    Yes, that’s why we have laws, including assault laws and disorderly conduct laws. A kid soaking a bystander down with a super soaker in a public place would probably fall under one of those — and it probably wouldn’t happen twice if the kid was taken downtown and given a talking to.

    But there’s no place for the schools regulating ANYTHING that does not happen on property they literally own. Schools are not just another arm of government, they are institutions limited to the education of children, and thinking they’re general purpose kid-controlling mechanisms leads to all kinds of stupidity. It just makes mischief when something happens involving a kid, someone feels that it was not handled effectively, and suddenly it’s the school’s place to make and enforce rules even though it happened nowhere near and had nothing to do with *school.*

  42. pentamom June 17, 2011 at 2:11 am #

    BTW, everyone involved in a game of assassins is involved voluntarily. They may not know they’re going to get hit with water, they don’t know who might be shooting at them, but the game only involves people who willingly participate. They’re not hitting unwitting bystanders, but people who *signed up to get pranked in some way.*

  43. Sarah June 17, 2011 at 3:03 am #

    The Assassins game talk reminds me of studying abroad in Ecuador during Carnival. If you were outside, you were fair game for getting soaked by a water balloon, bucket or water, squirt gun, or plain old hose full of water. It was so much fun!

    We got really good at dumping buckets over the roof of the house JUST in time to land on the heads of the people driving by in truck beds! Even the men in the armored trucks were sticking squirt guns out the little gun holes and getting people wet!

    It seems like if people tried that in the US, everyone would go to prison 🙁

  44. kherbert June 17, 2011 at 3:45 am #

    @pentamom I know that schools generally don’t regulate what happens off campus (designated bus stops are an exception) – That is why I was wondering if the POLICE sent out a notice through the schools.

    It is an easy way to get notices out to a targeted age group. The police and fire department send out information to parents through the school frequently in the district I live in. They print up the fliers, put them in groups of 25 and drop off at the school. Usually this is just things about camps, sports teams they coach, get your car seat checked for free clinics. Again we are required by federal law to distribute the fliers.

    Some kids were playing a war game type thing in my apartments a couple of times. Once I got soaked by a water gun including the stack of papers I had in my bag to grade. Another time it was a toy gun that looked realistic (I not sure if it was laser or paint). In this case the hunter’s orange tip had been spraypainted over with metallic paint.

    I turned the corner and had a gun in my face. I screamed, knocked the gun out of my face, and slammed the teenaged adult sized brat back against a wall. My neighbor had been robbed the week before by a follow home robber, so I was on edge. The cop that lived in the apartments made it very clear to the outraged parents that I could press charges. It didn’t matter that it was a toy gun – it had been altered to look like a real gun.

    It the game is done in a way and place that people not in the game aren’t going to be hassled, soaked, or frightened I will fight for the kids. Make it so I can’t walk to my front door without going through the “war zone”, I will make you miserable till you stop including pressing charges.

  45. Matt L. June 17, 2011 at 4:00 am #

    It is very interesting to me that there is such a wide range of reactions to this, at first I had the moment where I could see cltching my pearls and screaming “I cannot believe they would put the children through this! Think of the children” Then, I calmed down a bit and remembered all of my first responder training and the city wide terrorism scenarios that they have in Chicago. I also remember how much these things benefitted my every day work as a first responder.

    It is unfortunate that the email limited the scope of this to a “school environment” as this would also be applicable to hospitals, office buildings, court houses, museums, shopping malls etc where you have large numbers of people. True, an armed attack on such targets is rare, but our expectation is that our law enforcement agencies and fire departments are equipped to handle these situations. I cannot fathom how you would train a SWAT team without some hands on drilling.

    Sure, it is not so great that we are reminded of the dangers around us, but really these drills are unobtrusive to the general populace and I would totally love to sign up to wear body armor and get shot at. We need to make sure that specialized units receive specialized training and that is, I believe, the scope of the drill.

    I can totally see the organizers of this drill thinking that kids would be easily recruited especially iof they can play on the parent’s concerns. This is the more unsettling part as well as the water gun nonsense.

  46. Missy June 17, 2011 at 4:05 am #

    I understand this is for the police department, and I see how it could be fun for the kids while they know it’s fake, but we had shooter drills when I was teaching in the public school system and the kids did NOT like it. It was scary for them. And this was high school. They said “It’s freaky to have to sit here quietly” and conversations in whispered voices moved to “What if this did happen at our school. What if…what if…” This is a generation that grew up with Columbine as a real situation – not like us, the parents, who never heard of such a thing.

  47. EricS June 17, 2011 at 5:41 am #

    Remember also, cops, politicians, doctors, teachers, chefs, pretty much any adult can have a heli-parent mentality. They aren’t immune to paranoia. However, it does pose a problem for those free-range parents when they come across an authority figure that has that mentality. ie. cops. We’ve heard a number of stories were cops use their position to scare people into heli-parenting. We’ve also had stories were teachers use their authority to veto anything that THEY feel may tarnish their school. Then there are those stories that authorities give in to demands of heli-parents just to avoid political backlash, protests, and losing face. Fear is a helluva drug I tell ya.

  48. Marty June 17, 2011 at 6:03 am #

    I bet this is funded by a federal homeland security grant. classic scare tactics by government agencies to increase their funding. ridiculous.

  49. pentamom June 17, 2011 at 6:23 am #

    kherbert — understood. But as I said, there are actual laws pertaining to harassing/assaulting strangers, with water or anything else. While involving bystanders in something like this is obnoxious and may rise to the level of a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances, the school *has no role* if it is not happening on school property or otherwise under the school’s actual jurisdiction. There are other ways of handling it without giving the schools authority over people’s lives that they aren’t remotely entitled to. By all means press charges if it’s appropriate, but there’s no justification for educators to insert themselves into kids’ non-educational, off-campus behavior. Period. That’s what parents are for, or police if it rises to that level.

  50. pentamom June 17, 2011 at 6:25 am #

    “but we had shooter drills when I was teaching in the public school system and the kids did NOT like it. ”

    No one who doesn’t like it has to be there. This is not a school-based drill for the kids, this is an after-hours, all-volunteer drill for the responders, with the school as the location. The kids in this situation are actors playing victims, not trainees.

  51. Donna June 17, 2011 at 6:31 am #

    Why is this a problem? This is an activity to train emergency responders. I may think that kids don’t need Columbine drills but I kinda like the idea of first responders knowing what to do in the unlikely event one occurs. This specific training may be targeted at schools but the skills learned would translate to any large venue.

    As for kids enjoying it, it is acting the same as any play. A kid who is into acting or interested in emergency response work would get a kick out of this. As a drama-nerd, I’d have totally volunteered as a kid.

  52. Robin June 17, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    I live in NJ and would like to add something here. I’m not in the same district as the original poster, but our middle school did have a police active shooter drill during school hours. The kids had to be in lock-down for over an hour. That means sitting on the floor with their backs against the wall with doors and windows closed. Thye were not allowed to do anything, including read a book.

    They have to practice lock downs just like they have to practice fire drills. This does not involve the police, the above was a one time thing, but it’s a huge waste of time.

  53. Metanoia June 17, 2011 at 8:21 am #

    Sounds more like a drill for the Emergency Services to me… I don’t see the problem. Maybe a re-read on the email is required??

  54. bmj2k June 17, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    How does this promote safety? Isn’t the point of the scenario that the shooting has already begun?

  55. Jonathan hoch June 17, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    This has to be a joke. Someone is pulling your chain.

  56. Bern June 17, 2011 at 10:00 am #

    I would never again consider participating in training exercises of this nature. In particular I would never trust a loaded or unloaded gun in such a situation (those rubber bullets might not be rubber). Here’s what happened at a training I was scheduled to attend some years ago (report from NATIONAL TACTICAL OFFICERS ASSOCIATION):

    “May 15, 1994
    Palo Alto Police Department, California
    Reserve Officer Theodore Herman Brassinga
    Reserve Officer Brassinga, age 33, was accidentally shot and killed on an Amtrak
    train during a multi-jurisdictional training session in preparation for the 1994 World
    Cup Soccer Tournament. The training exercise, held at the Gilroy train station, was
    based on a scenario of a terrorist hostage-taking event, and Brassinger played the
    role of a terrorist. He was shot in the side of the abdomen by an officer whose
    handgun contained at least one live bullet despite safety checks. The existing safety
    procedures called for two range masters to inspect all weapons prior to starting each
    session. During the weapons check, one range master’s gun was found to contain
    live rounds, leading to a discussion that diverted the officers’ attention from carefully
    checking the 9mm automatic handgun belonging to the second range master. It was
    the second range master who fired the fatal shot. Officer Brassinger was survived by
    his wife and their 14-month old son.”

    I know this sounds a little paranoid, but dozens of people have been killed in such incidents, and it seems a bit dopey to suggest you need civilian (ie non-peace officer) volunteers to be endangered just for training.

  57. Jonathan hoch June 17, 2011 at 10:00 am #

    It’s part of the “mean world syndrome”. We scare people so that their actions etc can be shepherded into a sort of pacifist culture. It’s really the story of control by those who profit the most from this conditioning.

  58. danan June 17, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    It sounds interesting, even fun, and educational, but there are probably lots of adults who need to get community service hours. So I think there may be an (unstated) intent to teach the kids how to act in such a situation. Or, the authorities are reluctant to bring nonstudents into the schools or they really need the realism to test the responders. I am not sure if this is an effective plan, but it is definitely not anti-freerange.

    The e-mail is unclear as to whether rubber bullets will be shot at people. I doubt it. They could be shooting at the ceiling or near each other while playing real gun noises. Everyone who has seen a rough protest knows these rubber bullets are not entirely safe.

  59. Sera June 17, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    This reminds me of my high school, we did actually have a drill for a situation like this. We were supposed to turn all the lights off and crouch under our desks. I always thought it was absurd, the school desks were tiny and offered very limited visual cover (and practically no physical barrier to a bullet from any real gun). And, you know what was covering the underside of every school desk? Of course. Gum. In my hair. So, of course, while we were all crouched under our desks getting covered in gum, we were (to my mind) more vulnerable, because our movement was far more restricted than it would otherwise have been.

    The worst part of it was that the teachers were expected to stand next to the door to protect the students. Um, no, that’s not at all suitable. The teachers are NOT being paid to act as bodyguards to the students. They did NOT sign up for anything that requires them to put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect a student. The teacher of the class I was in when we had the drill was my math teacher. He was young (30ish), and had a young wife and a baby at home. No way in hell, even at 17 years old, would I want him to take a bullet for me.

  60. Bob Davis June 17, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    As long as the young people are volunteers, and the school district has low or no financial cost, this sounds like a good idea. A few years ago there was a disastrous train wreck in the San Fernando Valley district of Los Angeles. Many observers were impressed by the work of the firefighters and EMT’s. They don’t just learn how to deal with such catastrophes by reading about it. They have drills, sometimes using old railroad cars or buses for that “hands on” experience. Of course here in Southern California they can call on film industry sources for realistic looking “blood” and “nasty wound” appliances. Local high school and college drama students often play “victims”.

  61. Caroline June 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    What a day-Lenore, it’s the first time I have ever disagreed with a thing you’ve written! I have been a 911 Dispatcher for 16 years (and a parent for most of that) I believe that on-going training in critical incidents is vital for law enforcement. In school incidents such as these, there are often several agencies, many emergency dispatch centers, school personnel, etc involved who do not normally work together, The day to meet up and figure out what to do to about an active shooter(s) is NOT the day of the real thing. You are right of course these incidents do not happen often, thank goodness, but personally I would support and jump at the chance to train and support my officers and school personnel preparing to resolve a situation like this with the least amount of harm to my children and their teachers and classmates. (As far as kids being involved, I think that was handled appropriately as well-strictly voluntary, and with parental permission.) Keep up the good work.

  62. baby-paramedic June 17, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

    drills are so vital for the emergency services.
    And we learn valuable lessons apart from the obvious.

    My first shooting drill (keeping in mind in Aust we Very rarely have shootings) got the adrenaline pumping! But also learnt the importance of keeping track of vital equipment 😉

  63. Christopher Byrne June 17, 2011 at 8:24 pm #

    Every Tuesday afternoon at 2:00 pm sharp, the city of Wilmington, DE tested its air raid drill. This was a staple of my childhood, and a marker of time for all the kids in the class. We also had drills in case of a nuclear attack. (Not that the locker room of our building would have protected us against a hydrogen bomb.) There were plenty of people in the government and the culture who believed that could indeed happen, though it never had. Tragically, there have been many shootings in schools, which changes the probability equation, though it’s still highly unlikely.

    In my childhood, the likelihood of either of a nuclear attack or an air raid was beyond remote, statistically, but as a civics lesson I’m not sure it was a waste of time. We were asked to be mindful that America had enemies and we were enlisted in preparedness.

    Humans overreact habitually, and we’re always fighting the last war, but is being conscious or prepared a waste of time? Even for something that may never happen? There’s a difference between understanding what one would do in an emergency and living in abject fear. The former build confidence in one’s abilities to cope and survive, while the other leads to living in fear.

    Every time I get on an airplane, they go over the safety procedures, though the statistical probability that I’ll be involved in an airplane accident is virtually nonexistent. However, a flight attendant friend of mine who survived a crash in a regional jet, has consistently said that the people who did better in the crisis were those who had paid attention to the safety briefing. (BTW, she’s still flying.)

    And, on a tangential note, if we’re fantasizing things, why not fantasize that as a result of participating in this drill, a student might be inspired to become a public servant or any number of positive outcomes.

    Frankly, if I’m ever in a crisis situation, I want to be surrounded by people who have practiced what to do in the situation. And while I fly almost every week, I still look for the exits, and then I sit back and enjoy the flight.

  64. Robin June 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    You are missing the point of this – schools all over the country are practicing lock-down drills. Lock-down drills are ONLY for when an armed invader has entered the school. What are the odds of this? Shouldn’t we be more worried about a pile up of cars on the highway than this? I’m in NJ and we have never practiced a tornado drill. Why? Because the chance of a tornado is near zero, yet every year at least 3 times a year, my kids have to practice lock-down drills. They are as common as fire drills.

    Yes, drills are essential for emergency teams, but let’s spend the money on ones that are actually likely to happen. And the BS about it not costing the school any money is wrong. Every dollar that goes into these unnecessary drills could have been spent on the school, or not taken from me in the first place.

    Yes, it would be fun to participate and I would allow my kids to do it IF it was for a scenario that was actually likely to happen. Some of the schools in our area enact a car crash because of teen drinking. Some of the kids get to be the victims, complete with fake blood. Let’s do more of those than armed shooters. It’s WAY more likely to happen.

  65. Uly June 17, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    Have you seen this yet?


  66. Lollipoplover June 17, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    I remember hearing stories from my parents about how they had school drills where they hid under their desks to prepare for a Japanese enemy attack.
    Now it seems the enemy comes from within and it is a bit more complicated.

    On a side note, here is how one of our schools addresses water guns.


  67. pentamom June 17, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

    Robin — all very true, except that isn’t “the point of this” because this isn’t that. This isn’t a lockdown drill for students. It’s an off hours exercise for responders in which students *may participate* as actors, not as trainees being drilled in lockdown procedures.

    Your points are fair ones, but they aren’t “the point of this” at all since you’re talking about something different from what is happening here.

  68. Marty June 17, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    this is worth reading…


  69. gap-runner June 17, 2011 at 11:12 pm #

    @Uly, I just read the link that you posted and found it very disturbing. One of the points of children’s literature is to help children realize that they can face fearful situations and overcome them. Look at most fairy tales involving kids (e.g. Hansel and Gretel). Having adults in the story in a supervisory or helping role defeats that purpose. A big favorite among kids in Germany are stories about Till Eulenspiegel, who’s a clever bad boy. The Till Eulenspiegel stories would lose a lot if Till was constantly supervised and told, “Don’t do that, it’s dangerous!”

    Contemporary German literature still has stories of kids who do things on their own. My son loves the Percy Jackson series. Percy’s father is one of the Greek gods and his mother is a mortal. He has a lot of different adventures that are evidently very exciting because my son can’t put a Percy Jackson book down. Kids here also love the Artemis Fowl books.

    Apologies for hijaking the thread, but I wanted to reply to what Uly posted.

  70. Neener June 17, 2011 at 11:24 pm #

    Add me to the chorus saying their kid would be first in line. It’s acting – with a purpose, but still acting – and she loves to act. If she heard about this, she would demand I let her go. And letting your kid participate in something like this if they wanted and were equipped to handle it seems about as free-range as it gets.

    To me, it’s just preparedness, not fearmongering. Just like I taught her what to do if she’s ever home alone and there’s a break-in (stay upstairs, be quiet, grab phone, lock self in closet with light off, dial 911, remember to breathe). Just like we’ve had a few home fire drills over several years (don’t look for us, it’s our job to get the pets, just get yourself out the window and across the street). Just like she took Red Cross swim safety (they made them jump in the pool fully clothed, jeans, shoes, etc., and then swim for it). She has told me that knowing what to do IF always makes her feel more at ease. I think it’s part of what makes her such a confident young girl. I want her to understand that even when events are out of her control, she can still control herself and her reactions – indeed, she’s the only one who can.

    I want my kid to grow up knowing that the world is basically safe and people are generally good – but when it’s not or they aren’t, here is what to do.

  71. KateNonymous June 17, 2011 at 11:57 pm #

    They do the exact same kind of drill at the university where I work, and I’ve never heard of anyone being bothered by it, except as an inconvenience. In this case, it appears that the only students involved will be those who volunteered and got their parents’ permission to participate.

    Here’s the thing: the POLICE are preparing for something that is unlikely, but not at all implausible. They’re not having drills for the students at this particular school–that’s just where the police drill is being held. What the police learn will apply at any school in their jurisidiction, not just at this one. Hopefully it will be unnecessary. But I don’t have a problem with the police training for such a situation.

    Law enforcement officials actually do have to prepare differently than the rest of us do. (a) It’s the nature of their jobs, and (b) it’s why we have them. They’re specialists, and this is specialized training. A great many police officers never pull their weapons from the holster, but they all know how to fire them if they need to.

    Here’s a parallel from another profession: there’s a measles epidemic right now, and I hear stories about doctors who don’t accurately diagnose the disease the first time they see it. Why? Because they’re not used to seeing it. Vaccinating against measles has made the disease much more rare, and that means that training to identify it is less of a priority. If doctors were more familiar with the disease through training, some of these patients would have been able to receive treatment earlier in the course of the illness. I think this drill falls into the same category: the professionals are practicing for something that may never happen, and most of the public will be unaffected by that practice.

  72. Nicholas June 18, 2011 at 3:35 am #

    Long time reader; first time poster. 😉

    I’m with others in viewing this as a drill for emergency personnel that kids get the opportunity to help in. I think it would be a good experience for them. Were it for the kids, it would be patently ridiculous in my opinion.

    >> “school shootings are actually somewhat more common than you might think. While they’re not “common” in the sense that car accidents are, they aren’t unheard of, and weren’t even before Columbine. Technically, Columbine wasn’t even the worst as far as body count when it happened (ie, not including VT). In fact, there averages out to be a couple a year, especially in the recent past couple of decades.”

    I would just like to point out, using your own numbers, that if we assume 2 shootings per year in a country where there are approximately 100,000 schools, that comes to:

    (2/100000) x 100 = 0.002%

    That’s your probability of your school hosting a public shooting in a given year (all other variables being equal). An average child will attend 13 years of school making their probability of experiencing a school shooting before graduation:

    0.002 x 13 = 0.026%

    If we then assume that there are approximately 300 kids in a school, and that approximately 1 classroom (20 children) will be directly involved (this is an uneducated guess on my part; you can adjust accordingly), the probability of an average kid having any actual involvement in a shooting before graduation becomes:

    0.026 x (20/300) = 0.0017%

    That is approximately 1 in 60,000. Another way to look at it is some 1/50 as likely as dieing in a car accident before graduation, or just six times more likely than being hit by lightning. Accounting for other variable, such as neighborhood or other demographics, you may find the probability of a school shooting for your child lower.

    Just as importantly, I’d like to point out, in response to:

    “but we had shooter drills when I was teaching in the public school system and the kids did NOT like it. It was scary for them. And this was high school. They said “It’s freaky to have to sit here quietly” and conversations in whispered voices moved to “What if this did happen at our school. What if…what if…” This is a generation that grew up with Columbine as a real situation – not like us, the parents, who never heard of such a thing”

    I’m not sure if there was sarcasm intended in that paragraph, but assuming not…

    I grew up with Columbine as well. I did the above calculations in high school. Thus I didn’t worry. If our kids are not doing this and instead letting their emotions rule them that, to me, indicates a failure on our part (both schools and parents) of teaching them applied math and logic skills, as well as focus, confidence, and self-control.

    And as parents, there is no excuse for not doing some statistical analysis ourselves and using it as an opportunity to not just soothe our kids’ fears, but also educate them in proper risk analysis (and some applied math).

    And if after that my daughter acknolwedged the unlikelihood, but still felt that instinctual fear of a predator hiding in the jungle, an evolutionary holdover none of us escape from, taking hold of her I’d rather her school not force her into the experience. But I wouldn’t call it a total loss for her to have the opportunity to face and deal with those feelings, provided someone was there to put it in the proper context. That would provide an excellent opportunity for personal growth.

  73. Jen June 18, 2011 at 4:17 am #

    I’m also going to add to the “Did you actually READ the memo, not just scan it?” crowd. This is NOT a drill to teach students how to react. That, I agree, would be a little over the top. It is a drill to teach EMERGENCY RESPONDERS how to react to a plausible if unlikely situation.
    To quote the memo (Emphasis mine):

    The purpose of this drill is to provide a simulated training activity to help **EMERGENCY RESPONDERS** prepare for an actual emergency in any school setting..To make this a productive and authentic training activity, student volunteers are needed.The drill will run from approximately 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM. Because this will be **A TRAINING EXERCISE FOR THE POLICE**, rubber ammunition will be used, and the sights and sounds will be very authentic and potentially upsetting.

    That means that EMTs, police, SWAT, 911 operators, etc will be training to respond to someone with a weapon in a public place. I imagine they’re using a school because it’s the easiest place to get a controlled environment, since most businesses, hospitals or courthouses can’t just shut down entirely for a day or more to prepare and carry out a drill like this. I went to a college with an excellent criminal justice program, and the school had a lot of students who go on to become those same emergency responders that are being trained during drills like this, and trust me, emergency responders don’t just magically learn to do this stuff by reading a book or listening to a lecture. They need to learn how to respond, and especially how to work with other agencies in the same area. My alma mater held 3-4 different mock crime scenes every semester, as well as at least 1-2 active shooter drills a year. I was a “victim” for one, and it was interesting, actually. It’s also very important, since you want your emergency responders to be effective if something like this does happen.

  74. Blake June 18, 2011 at 4:28 am #

    I’ve done similar work with the police department before in Billings, MT (this was when I was in college, though; and, granted, it was a place where the typical school shooter drill could include “grab your own rifles and provide covering fire for the police”), and it was great fun for me and the other actors. It kind of irritated the officers, but the point of the exercise was not for the actors to have fun portraying non-threatening people who nevertheless require help from police, but for the police to learn how to better respond.

    That’s the real value of getting volunteers for a drill like this. The police will learn how to respond with a group of real people who will probably react realistically. Don’t get me wrong, this hysteria over school shootings is very much overblown and pretty horrible, but this training does help the police in more situations than just a school shooting. Especially considering a school is easily accessible compared to other buildings, and training centers rarely accurately mirror a real-world situation, I think this is an acceptable use of a building during its off hours. The kids who volunteer will probably have a blast, too. I know I would have when I was younger. Still would.

  75. kristinc June 18, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    I think it’s ironic that on a site where the ethos could generally be described as “kids are resilient; let them have a few dings and nicks” there are as many people as there are going “oh noez, the children, they will be traumatized!”

    When I was in high school (pre-Columbine) my school had some sort of big disaster drill in partnership with emergency response services. An earthquake or volcanic eruption maybe? Anyway, I was absent that day, and I was disappointed because the day after the school was just buzzing about how much fun it was and how interesting.

    As for staging it in the school? It’s SUMMER. The school will be EMPTY. At that point it starts resembling a generic office complex or college/tech school. Might as well use it!

  76. Uly June 18, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    You know, I’ve been thinking about this all day, and I guess the real question is “Are the skills being practiced at this drill transferable?”

    I mean, a school shooting is pretty unlikely. At least, I assume it is – I suppose it’s possible that this is a gang-ridden area where kids always bring guns to class, but were that the case I’m sure it would’ve been mentioned.

    However, will drilling for this unlikely event help the various emergency personnel for other, more likely situations? If so, I don’t see the problem. You need to have SOME scenario for your drill, after all. There’s a whole organization that runs mock “zombie” drills to encourage general emergency preparedness, and that’s REALLY unlikely!

  77. Robin June 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    “New Jersey has passed legislation that requires monthly lockdown drills at all public and private schools in New Jersey beginning November 1, 2010.

    Under New Jersey fire safety regulations adopted in 2009, districts must complete two emergency evacuation drills within 10 days of the opening of school. In addition, districts will transition to one fire drill and one lockdown “or security” drill a month in November.’

    In other states, this drill may be because it’s the only empty building available, or some other innocuous reason. In NJ it is because they think there will be armed invaders. My kids have MANDATORY lock down drills throughout the year. We are not in a “gang-ridden area”, we are a normal suburban district.

    From the beginning of the email “The purpose of this drill is to provide a simulated training activity to help emergency responders prepare for an actual emergency in any SCHOOL setting.” The last line of the email says “Thank you for your willingness to help our schools.”

    NJ gets lots of federal Homeland Security dollars after 9/11 and it has to be spent. This is your tax dollars being used to simulate another Columbine, with no other purpose.

  78. Krolik June 18, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    The monthly lockdown drills are now part of my third-grader’s life too. She gets nightmares afterwards and is afraid to let me out of her sight. I talked to the school counselor. Turns out, she is not the only one to suffer anxiety because of these drills. Way to go school board, terrifying kids and interfering with their independence in a very real way to guard against a highly improbable danger.

  79. kherbert June 18, 2011 at 10:49 pm #

    @Krolik, what have you done to change the policy? Have you contacted other parents, have you gone to the school board?

    As a group this is the whiniest web forum I’ve been to. Lots of whining very little “I’ve done x, y, z to fix the problem.”

    On my campus we have
    1 – Lock down drill a semester, repeated only if their is bad behavior or serious mistakes.

    In 10 years we have had 3 real lock downs. 1st caused by a man beating a woman less than 2 yards from my classroom door. Technically off campus but he was drunk or high so I called for help. 2nd caused by a parent punching a teacher in the face and throwing furniture at another staff member. 3rd caused by an armed robber being chased by police across our playground. The criminal went around a corner and disappeared. The police were not sure if he had gone into the apartments next door or in our building.

    1 – tornado drill a year Then if we have bad weather we are told to go over procedures with our students. If we are under tornado watch we shelter during the watch. That probably happens at least 2 times a year.

    Those two aren’t really drill in the usual sense of being unexpected. They are more practices. The idea is to NOT scare the kids the way Krolik’s daughter has been scared.

    We teachers know it is going to happen we go over the procedures. Principal comes on the intercom and says we are going to practice X drill. If tornado he tells the kids he is going to set off the bell so they know what it sounds like and we are to follow procedures. If it is the lockdown drill he says We are going to have a red drill – go.

    We are required by law to have 1 fire drill a month. We have had several real fire drills due to heat sensors going off in a mechanical room. Rule of thumb if it is raining and we are giving a state test, when the alarm goes off it is real. That has happened twice in 2 years. To the point that when going over testing procedures with kids – what to do if the alarm goes off is one of the most important parts.

  80. pentamom June 19, 2011 at 12:29 am #

    The thing is that unlikely as school shootings are, THEY DO HAPPEN. And the job of emergency personnel is to deal with the unlikely as well as the likely.

    If the emergency services are spending ridiculous amounts of time and money training for school shootings instead of MVAs, of course there’s a problem. But if they have a reasonable amount of training for normal, predictable situations, and do a school shooting drill once in ten years, is that a problem? Would everyone be happier if there was a whole list of actual, possible things, that have actually happened, that emergency personnel were *not supposed to be trained in* because they were “too unlikely?” Fifty car pileups don’t happen very often, either — maybe there shouldn’t be any training for those, either. Plane crashes over land — almost zero chance of it happening in any given jurisdiction. Let’s not bother training people for it.

    And it would seem pretty obvious that even though the direct application of this is “schools,” the skills would be broadly transferable to most environments where there are large numbers of people in multiple rooms — office buildings, hospitals, POST OFFICES, etc. Not precisely, but broadly.

    So while I’d agree that it would be ridiculous to routinely train kids in what to do in the event of a school shooting, I don’t get the hostility to training people whose jobs it is to be prepared for the unusual and unlikely, in something unusual, unlikely, but potentially dangerous to large numbers of people.

  81. pentamom June 19, 2011 at 12:37 am #

    Keep in mind also that if a given emergency worker has a 30 year career, and there are 20 high school in the radius to which his unit might be called out (and since things like school shootings generally result in personnel being called out from a wide area), that emergency worker is 130 times more likely than any given student, who is in high school for four years in one school at a time, to have to deal with that situation. It’s still a small overall risk, but it’s a completely different order of magnitude from the risk any given kid experiences.

  82. Paul C June 19, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    “The thing is that unlikely as school shootings are, THEY DO HAPPEN.”

    So do alien abductions (according to some), but I’m not making my kids prepare for them.

  83. Uly June 20, 2011 at 1:00 am #

    But Paul, in the article posted (not talking about the additional information about monthly lockdown drills and so on, which is absurd unless you really live where there are frequent gun battles at schools) is not about “making kids prepare for them”. It’s about making emergency workers prepare for them, hopefully in a way that will be transferable to a wide variety of emergencies, and asking for teenagers to be extras in this scenario.

    With any luck, none of these emergency workers will ever be called to a school shooting. But it’s somewhat more likely for them than for any random high schooler for the reasons pentamom spelled out.

  84. Queenie June 21, 2011 at 3:29 am #

    As a 23 year police officer, I can say that these drills are very important to police, EMS and all first responders. We don’t do them often, maybe once every two years and we also ask for volunteers. We get both students and community members to help us out and everyone enjoys it. We definately aren’t saying that this kind of “active shooter” incident is likely to occur, but it certainly could happen and if you don’t think it ever will, wouldn’t you prefer that your local first responders would be prepared??? Columbine was a “gang riddled” school or town but it happened there as it has in numberous other places across the nation. If you think that you child shouldn’t volunteer, then don’t let them. It sounds like this school handled this request for volunteers just like we do and it’s always a positive experience.

  85. Helynna Brooke June 21, 2011 at 5:57 am #

    I have worked in a collaboration between the mental health department and the police department to provide police officers with training to help them interact more effectively and safely with people with mental illness. Real scenarios are helpful for emergency responders, however I have a great deal of concern for the use of rubber bullets. They can cause severe injuries, but I am primarily concerned about the mental health and crisis response abilities of the students. When police officers train with a Fire Arms Training Simulator (large video screen with scenarios), if they are “killed” by the lazor beam in the scenario, the instructor runs it back so they can achieve a different outcome. This is done so they don’t freeze in a real situation. They also process the experience afterwards.

    So, if I were a parent at this school, before I let my child participate I would want to know how the school, police, etc. are going to debrief the kids afterwards. And is it really necessary to use rubber bullets? Has the school checked on their risk of lawsuit if there are injuries? The school might want to consider intervening if a kid participates who is coming from a household where there is physical or verbal abuse as it might really exacerbate post traumatic stress disorder.

    But I guess the thing that bothers me the most is that it is another example of the excessive fear we have in this country. Oh my gosh, even our children are possibly out to get us, or even kill us, so we need to have the police prepared to kill them.

    If we would work a little harder and put more money into prevention services, we could prevent any of these incidences and help a troubled child in elementary school so they are not out of control by high school.

  86. FrancesfromCanada June 21, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    I participated in something like this when I was a teenager, back in the 70s. I got volunteered because my mom is a nursing instructor. We used the school because it was available but the scenario was actually a fire at the local hospital. Great makeup. Yes, it was a little disturbing, but I survived a nightmare or two — and even at that age I understood the point of the exercise which was to train the police, fire department and hospital personnel…and that I was helping. And I understood that such a fire was unlikely.

    I’m not convinced about the rubber bullets, but these kind of disaster role-play events have a place. I suspect the only reason there is a controversy about this is because the scenario hits close to home…but what disaster scenario wouldn’t?

  87. Dragonwolf June 22, 2011 at 3:00 am #

    Nicholas – Since you directly quoted me, you might want to consider re-reading what I said. I never once said anything to imply that I even thought school shootings were common enough to fear. I was, however, pointing out the fact that they aren’t as “unheard of” as the person to which I was responding actually thinks. .0002% chance of occurring or not, shootings actually did happen prior to Columbine, and there was at least one that actually had a higher body count than Columbine, prior to it, which means it wasn’t “unprecedented.” Unexpected? Yes, because it is still rare, but considering “precedent” means that something similar has happened before, it’s far from “unprecedented.”

  88. Helynna Brooke June 22, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    I live in San Francisco and we have a couple of areas Where many young people do not expect to reach the age of 25. Many youth bring guns to school because they don’t feel safe without them and more than 60 teens were killed last year. We are still trying to find out how the guns are getting into the city to these kids because most of the kids never leave the neighborhood, much less the city. When Columbine happened many community leaders asked why we don’t bring in psychologists from all over the world, like happened in Columbine after the violence, to find out why these kids in these neighborhoods are enduring so much violence. Violence in schools in many communities throughout the country is a daily experience but they are in schools in lower income neighborhoods, so they don’t get any press, or much help in solving the underlying issues

  89. pentamom June 27, 2011 at 10:42 pm #

    “Oh my gosh, even our children are possibly out to get us, or even kill us, so we need to have the police prepared to kill them. ”

    Yes, because that must be the message. It couldn’t possibly be, “Kids and other people have hurt kids in school, so we need to have police and others prepared to save them.”

  90. Chris February 13, 2012 at 6:29 am #

    This year I was in a drill like this. It was in the local middle school but should have been in the HS. They really need to practice ALOT more because it took so long for the emergency crews to arrive. I was the only victim that was actually from the school it was in. The rest were in Collage… We got a grant from Homeland Security…