Psychological effects of active shooter drills in schools

Laurel Williams, D.O. (320x240)

Dr. Laurel Williams, associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital.

Schools across the country have implemented active shooter drills and metal detectors to prepare for violence. While these practices may make school staff and parents feel safe, young children can often become confused and afraid, unsure of what to anticipate. Dr. Laurel Williams, associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital, discusses the psychological effects of active shooter drills and metal detectors on schoolchildren.

“People must keep in mind the developmental age and how that connects to young children’s emotional and cognitive abilities when considering and deploying these ‘preparedness drills.’ It is developmentally normal for young children to not understand time and be able to distinguish between something happening now verses something possibly happening in the future,” Williams said. “From the perspective of a child psychiatrist, I believe that it’s psychologically distressing for young child to practice active shooters coming into your area. It’s not clear to them that the drill is not real. The younger the child, the less likely they are to understand that an act of violence is not occurring during a drill.”

If schools determine that these drills are necessary, Williams recommends that schools consider the following key points:

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