Emma Yin

A safety presentation replaces the traditional lockdown-barricade drills from previous years. This change was influenced by the school district’s policy changes.

Schools implement new policies to improve shooting drills

June 7, 2023

Students have become accustomed to drills for various emergencies – fires, shelters-in-place, and lockdowns. 

In past lockdown barricade drills, students simulated obstructing classroom doors with their desks and hiding in the dark, often discussing their means of defense, using textbooks or other classroom materials, if an armed intruder at the door. 

Per county guidelines this year, Carlmont teachers presented during a standard lockdown drill instead of ordering students to barricade and hide.

Students chose their flex period class and had a 15-minute drill. This drill was very different from previous years, as students were only required to help prepare their classrooms for a traditional lockdown, like closing blinds and locking doors, and then watched a presentation made by their teacher for the remaining time.

“We do presentation-style ‘drills’ regarding what to do if a violent intruder is on campus.  These ‘drills’ are presented following the information we received from the San Mateo County Office of Education (SMCOE) regarding trauma-informed practices,” said Gregg Patner, a Carlmont administrative vice principal.

According to Principal Gay Buckland-Murray, the county implemented these changes to address the potential trauma sustained by students during simulation drills and concerns about the value of practicing for a rare event.

“There is a difference between a drill and practice. Within the past 18 months, the concept of ‘drilling’ has changed per county guidelines. We are still in charge of informing staff and students of the protocol, but the concept of practicing this protocol has changed,” Buckland-Murray said.

Reforming the traditional safety drill

Gun violence continues to be a serious issue in the U.S., and 95% of American public schools practice lockdown drills to prepare students for school shootings. Some schools go as far as to have fake shooting scenarios played out during drills.

“I don’t support school shooting drills. There is no evidence suggesting that school shooting drills prepare students or staff in the event of a shooting. However, Carlmont’s drills are fairly reasonable. Many schools perform terrifying ‘simulations’ which we don’t see at Carlmont,” said Samantha Kim, Carlmont’s Students Demand Action president.

Kim’s sentiment around the harmful effects of lockdown drills is supported by a study by Everytown and Georgia Tech that explains that drills lead to a 39-42% increase in stress, anxiety, and depression but were still helpful in preparing students for emergencies.

“This research, paired with the lack of strong evidence that drills save lives, suggests that proactive school safety strategies may be both more effective and less detrimental to mental health than drills,” the study said.

Gun Safety at School by Rachel Alcazar

These “proactive school safety strategies” include reforming drills to prevent harm to students’ and teachers’ mental health, while addressing the ethical issues surrounding drilling students for a rare possibility of experiencing a school shooting, according to the study.

“Schools have to weigh the impacts of traumatizing students and staff with the likely minuscule benefits of drills,” Kim said. “However, drills probably provide students, staff, and parents with a sense of control and preparedness, and I can’t blame administrators for choosing to perform drills.”

The risk of a school shooting factors into how important students consider lockdown drills.

“I don’t think people take them seriously because although we know they can definitely happen, it’s not something that we need to worry about as much as other stuff,” said sophomore Anya Mele.

And whether or not drills effectively prepare students for school shootings, San Carlos has safe storage ordinances and other gun control legislation proven to be effective preventative measures against these situations.

“I think it’s far more logical to try to prevent shootings rather than mitigate the impacts, and that responsibility lies with lawmakers, not schools,” Kim said.

Moms Demand Action, a branch of the organization Everytown, started in 2012 as a way for parents to advocate for more gun safety in schools. It started shortly after the Sandy Hook school shooting and has expanded to be part of the largest gun safety organization in the U.S.

“It’s more about better school-based interventions to keep schools safe. Part of that is the overall safety climate at school, like more mental health support or ‘see something, say something,'” said Joan Kazerounian, the California Student Liaison Lead at Moms Demand Action. “Planning and communication about safe storage, Extreme Risk or Red Flag laws, and making a threat assessment at each school are also important. The student’s and teacher’s observations and knowledge should be keenly listened to while making safety plans.”

While drills are often used, a safety plan that students are aware of is a lot more important, according to Kazerounian, and it is often a misconception that students are responsible for preparing themselves for situations through drills when legislators are responsible for keeping communities safe.

According to Carlmont administrators, a new Say Something program will be implemented shortly, providing a way for students to report suspicious behavior to the school, and Carlmont will continue to work with the Belmont Police Department to keep the school safe.

Legislation versus gun lobby: the need for drills

California has some of the most robust gun legislation in the country, and the effects have been substantial over the past years.

“As a result, over the last 50 years, the rate of gun homicides has gone down almost 50%, so we know that gun safety laws can work. But the problem is that we are just one state among many, and people can go to other states and bring in illegal guns here, which is very hard to control. So what we really need, in the end, is very strong federal legislation, and that has been a long time coming because of the gun industry,” said Ruth Borenstein, the legislation chair at Brady California.

In fact, the gun lobby has been the reason for much of the legislative work of Brady and Everytown.

“The gun lobby continues to market a very dangerous agenda, with guns for all, and everywhere. They market to people’s fear, convincing them that more guns will make us safer when we know the opposite is true. They even market to youth, when firearms are the leading cause of child and teen death in America,” Kazerounian said.

Advertisements aimed at youth, such as the controversial JR-15 gun, are dangerous examples of the extent of the gun lobby. Asian Americans are reportedly purchasing more firearms following anti-Asian hate since the start of the pandemic, another product of the gun lobby’s marketing to fear. 

Organizations like Brady and Moms Demand Action have student-oriented youth branches, such as Students Demand Action and TeamENOUGH, and continue to work daily to advocate for new gun legislation and reform to reduce gun violence and school shootings nationwide.

“We will continue to advocate and pass common sense gun laws across the United States until we have a Congress that does its job,” Kazerounian said. “Today’s Congress is telling our communities and our youth that they must stand up to the gunman because it refuses to stand up to the gun lobby.”

About the Contributors
Photo of Rachel Alcazar
Rachel Alcazar, Scot Scoop Editor
Rachel Alcazar is a junior (class of 2025) at Carlmont. She is an editor for Scot Scoop and a staff writer for Highlander. She is interested in writing about current events and issues. Outside of school, she enjoys playing badminton and viola.

Twitter: @ralcazar_
Photo of Emma Yin
Emma Yin, Staff Writer
Emma Yin is a senior at Carlmont High School. This is her third year in the journalism program and currently serves as a staff writer and cartoonist. She is interested in art and dabbling in global news. You can find her drawing on her iPad, playing badminton and music, and hunting for a new boba shop. Follow her on Instagram @em.24.ma

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