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Nation’s Largest Teacher Unions Warn Against Active Shooter Drills Over Mental Health Concerns

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  • The American Federation of Teachers and National Educators Association issued a statement advising against active shooter drills for students.
  • The groups are concerned about the impact the drills have on mental health and said there is limited evidence that shows their effectiveness.
  • Instead, they included recommendations for schools that still wish to carry them out and encouraged comprehensive school safety plans to preempt gun violence.

Unions Advise Against Active Shooter Drills 

The nation’s two largest teacher unions are warning against active shooter drills for students over concerns that they can negatively impact mental health.

In a joint report released Tuesday with Everytown for Gun Safety, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Educators Association said they “do not recommend these drills for students and believe schools should carefully consider these impacts before conducting live drills that involve students and educators.”

According to the report, schools began implementing drills largely after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School and they have become more commons in the years since. The report says that during the 2015-16 school year, 95% of American public schools drilled students on lockdown procedures in the event of a shooting in comparison to 40% during the 2005-6 school year.

However, the groups note that there is limited research on the actual effectiveness of these procedures. They also say they could be counter-productive, as school shooters are often current or former students. 

On top of that, the report adds that many for-profit companies charge districts thousands of dollars to provide training to carry out these drills. The unions argue that the funds would be better spent on measures like threat assessment programs, mental health professionals, and security upgrades, among other things.

The intensity of Active Shooter Drills Vary 

At least 40 states require school-based drills, but the unions argue that the statutes for the procedures are vague, leaving room for the intensity of the drills to vary across the nation. 

“In Indiana they were shooting teachers with rubber pellets so they would feel the adrenaline of what a school shooting would feel like,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action told HuffPost. “They shot all of us across our backs. I was hit four times. It hurt so bad,” one teacher said at the time. 

“In California recently, a superintendent hired a stranger to wear a mask to rattle the doors of classrooms without letting faculty and students know,” Watts continued. “We’ve seen students asked to pretend to be victims and lie down using fake blood in the hallway.”

The report also noted that the drills have started as early as preschool, with students ages 3-4 confined in spaces for extended periods of time. In other cases, lack of warning sparked chaos like at Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs, Florida. A surprise “Code Red” drill sent students at the high school into a panic and many later opened up about the lasting emotional impact it had on them. 

As stories like this emerge, parents, teachers, and health professionals have started warning against these procedures. According to Melissa Reeves, former president of the National Association of School Psychologists, “What these drills can really do is potentially trigger either past trauma or trigger such a significant physiological reaction that it actually ends up scaring the individuals instead of better preparing them to respond in these kinds of situations.”

To showcase examples of this, the report quoted a New Jersey eight grader who spoke about her experience during a drill. “I was genuinely not sure if I would finish the day alive,” she said. 

After another incident in Tucson Arizona, a mother said her young son started biting his nails and refusing to go anywhere alone. Clinical psychologist Joy Levinson said she had patients who soiled themselves in school because the drills made them fearful of going to the bathroom alone. She also said that the lockdowns can signal to a child that school is unsafe. 

Recommendations for School that Preform Drills 

Though the groups recommended against the drills, they did include suggestions they support for schools that choose to carry them out. First, they advised against “simulations that mimic an actual incident.” 

They also said parents, students, and staff should have advanced notice and suggested schools create age-appropriate drills with the help of school personnel and mental health professionals. Along with that, they say drills should be paired with “trauma-informed approaches to address students’ well being.”

Finally, they suggested that schools track data about the efficacy and effects of the procedures. This should include information and symptoms resulting from the drills, like bad dreams, fears of coming to school, asthma attacks, or other details that could help schools reevaluate their policies. 

The report stresses that these drills should not be a school’s only plan to respond to a shooting. “They must be part of a comprehensive safety plan that includes measures to prevent active shooter incidents from happening in the first place, such as threat assessment programs, access to mental health professionals, collaborating with law enforcement, and engaging the community to ensure guns are not easily accessible,” the groups said. 

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (HuffPost) (Chicago Tribune)

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Uvalde Puts Police Chief on Leave, Tries to Kick Him Off City Council

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If Pete Arredondo fails to attend two more consecutive city council meetings, then he may be voted out of office.


Police Chief Faces Public Fury

Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo was placed on administrative leave Wednesday following revelations that he and his officers did not engage the shooter at Robb Elementary for over an hour despite having adequate weaponry and protection.

Superintendent Hal Harrell, who made the announcement, did not specify whether the leave is paid or unpaid.

Harrell said in a statement that the school district would have waited for an investigation to conclude before making any personnel decisions, but chose to order the administrative leave because it is uncertain how long the investigation will take.

Lieutenant Mike Hernandez, the second in command at the police department, will assume Arredondo’s duties.

In an interview with The Texas Tribune earlier this month, Arredondo said he did not consider himself in charge during the shooting, but law enforcement records reviewed by the outlet indicate that he gave orders at the scene.

Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told state senators on Tuesday that some officers wanted to enter the classrooms harboring the shooter but were stopped by their superiors.

He said officer Ruben Ruiz tried to move forward into the hallway after receiving a call from his wife Eva Mireles, a teacher inside one of the classrooms, telling him she had been shot and was bleeding to death.

Ruiz was detained, had his gun taken away, and was escorted off the scene, according to McCraw. Mireles later died of her wounds.

Calls for Arredondo to resign or be fired have persisted.

Emotions Erupt at City Council

Wednesday’s announcement came one day after the Uvalde City Council held a special meeting in which community members and relatives of victims voiced their anger and demanded accountability.

“Who are you protecting?” Asked Jasmine Cazares, sister of Jackie Cazares, a nine-year-old student who was shot. “Not my sister. The parents? No. You’re too busy putting them in handcuffs.”

Much of the anger was directed toward Arredondo, who was not present at the meeting but was elected to the city council on May 7, just over two weeks before the massacre.

“We are having to beg ya’ll to do something to get this man out of our faces,” said the grandmother of Amerie Jo Garza, a 10-year-old victim. “We can’t see that gunman. That gunman got off easy. We can’t take our frustrations out on that gunman. He’s dead. He’s gone. … Ya’ll need to put yourselves in our shoes, and don’t say that none of ya’ll have, because I guarantee you if any of ya’ll were in our shoes, ya’ll would have been pulling every string that ya’ll have to get this man off the council.”

One woman demanded the council refuse to grant Arredondo the leave of absence he had requested, pointing out that if he fails to attend three consecutive meetings the council can vote him out for abandoning his office.

“What you can do right now is not give him, if he requests it, a leave of absence,” she said. “Don’t give him an out. We don’t want him. We want him out.”

After hearing from the residents, the council voted unanimously not to approve the leave of absence.

On Tuesday, Uvalde’s mayor announced that Robb Elementary is set to be demolished, saying no students or teachers should have to return to it after what happened.

We make it a point to not include the names and pictures of those who may have been seeking attention or infamy and will not link out to websites that might contain such information.

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Texas Public Safety Director Says Police Response to Uvalde Shooting Was An “Abject Failure”

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New footage shows officers prepared to engage the shooter one hour before they entered the classroom.


Seventy-Seven Deadly Minutes

Nearly a month after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers, evidence has emerged indicating that police were prepared to engage the shooter within minutes of arriving, but chose to wait over an hour.

The shooting at Robb Elementary began at 11:33 a.m., and within three minutes 11 officers are believed to have entered the school, according to surveillance and body camera footage obtained by KVUE and the Austin American Statesman.

District Police Chief Pete Arredondo reportedly called a landline at the police department at 11:40 a.m. for help.

“It’s an emergency right now,” he said. “We have him in the room. He’s got an AR-15. He’s shot a lot… They need to be outside the building prepared because we don’t have firepower right now. It’s all pistols.”

At 11:52 a.m., however, the footage shows multiple officers inside the school armed with at least two rifles and one ballistic shield.

Law enforcement did not enter the adjoined classrooms to engage the shooter until almost an hour later, at 12:50 p.m. During that time, one officer’s daughter was inside the classrooms and another’s wife, a teacher, reportedly called him to say she was bleeding to death.

Thirty minutes before law enforcement entered the classrooms, the footage shows officers had four ballistic shields in the hallway.

Frustrated Cops Want to Go Inside

Some of the officers felt agitated because they were not allowed to enter the classrooms.

One special agent at the Texas Department of Public Safety arrived about 20 minutes after the shooting started, then immediately asked, “Are there still kids in the classrooms?”

“It is unknown at this time,” another officer replied.

“Ya’ll don’t know if there’s kids in there?” The agent shot back. “If there’s kids in there we need to go in there.”

“Whoever is in charge will determine that,” the other officer responded.

According to an earlier account by Arredondo, he and the other officers tried to open the doors to the classrooms, but found them both locked and waited for a master key to arrive. But surveillance footage suggests that they never tried to open the doors, which a top Texas official has confirmed were never actually locked.

One officer has told reporters that within minutes of the police response, there was a Halligan bar, which firefighters use to break down locked doors, on-site, but it was never used.

At a special State Senate committee hearing Monday, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw called the police response an “abject failure” and “antithetical to everything we’ve learned over the last two decades since the Columbine massacre.”

“The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from (entering rooms) 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” he said. “The officers have weapons, the children had none.”

We make it a point to not include the names and pictures of those who may have been seeking attention or infamy and will not link out to websites that might contain such information.

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Ohio Governor Signs Bill Allowing Teachers to Carry Guns With 24 Hours of Training

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“They will have blood on their hands,” Ohio State Senator Theresa Fedor said.


Teachers to Bear Arms

Ohio’s Republican Governor Mike DeWine signed a bill into law Monday allowing teachers and other school staff to carry firearms on campus with a fraction of the training previously required.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled last year that school employees need to complete 700 hours of training as a peace officer, as well as the permission from their school board before arming themselves, but Monday’s law changes that.

Starting in the fall, school staff will only have to complete up to 24 hours of initial training plus eight hours of requalification training each year.

DeWine directed the Ohio School Safety Center, which must approve any training programs, to order the maximum 24 hours and eight hours.

Four of those hours consist of scenario-based training and 20 more go toward first-aid training and history of school shootings and reunification education.

Individual school districts can still decide not to allow their staff to carry firearms. Last week, Cleveland’s mayor said the city will refuse to arm teachers, and Columbus has signaled it will not change its policy either.

Another Ohio law went into effect Monday allowing adults over the age of 21 to carry a concealed firearm without a permit, training, or background checks. It also ended the requirement for gun carriers to inform police officers if they have a concealed weapon on them unless specifically asked.

Communities shocked by Legislation

Coming just weeks after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 students and two teachers, Monday’s law was not welcome by many Ohioans.

“I think it’s a horrible idea to arm our teachers,” Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant told The Columbus Dispatch. “There’s a lot of training that’s involved in that. It’s naïve to believe that is something we can put on them and expect them to respond to from a law enforcement perspective.”

More police, teachers, and gun control advocates expressed opposition to the legislation, with Democratic State Senator Theresa Fedor telling ABC the bill’s supporters “will have blood on their hands.”

“I’m a veteran classroom teacher of 18 years, been a legislator 22 years,” she said. “I have never seen a bill so poorly written, hurdled through the process. There’s so many flaws in the bill. There’s no minimum education standard, no psychological evaluation, no safe storage.”

A teacher identified as “Coach D” also spoke out against the law on YouTube.

“It took me 12 years of grade school, four years of undergrad, and two years of graduate school, not to mention continued education and professional development for years to be able to teach in my classroom,” he said. “I’ve now been doing that for over 20 years. But now, with only 24 hours of training in Ohio, I could be authorized to bring a lethal weapon into the classroom and expected to take on an active shooter, and then what? Go back to teaching word problems?”

At a Monday press conference, reporter Josh Rultenberg confronted DeWine with challenging questions, posting several videos of the exchange in a Twitter thread.

When asked if he would take accountability if this law allowed for a teacher to shoot the wrong kid, Dewine said that “in life we make choices, and we don’t always know what the outcome is going to be.”

“What this legislature has done, I’ve done by signing it, is giving schools an option based on their particular circumstances to make the best decision they can make with the best information they have,” he continued.

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (The Columbus Dispatch) (ABC)

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