Washington enacts limits on how schools can conduct active shooter drills

Mar 17, 2022, 2:29 PM | Updated: Mar 18, 2022, 7:03 am
Active shooter drill...
Police on campus during an active shooting lockdown drill. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A bill limiting the way schools can conduct active shooter lockdown drills was signed into law on Thursday by Gov. Jay Inslee.

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HB 1941 makes it so that schools in Washington cannot conduct drills involving “live simulations or reenactments of active shooter scenarios that are not trauma-informed and age and developmentally appropriate.” That means that students, teachers, and school staff must be alerted to any drills related to school shooting safety beforehand, and that drills cannot directly mimic the presence of a shooter on school grounds, instead focusing on basic lockdown procedures.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Amy Walen, points to research indicating that “active shooter drills increase depression, anxiety, and fear of death for children and parents, and can cause stress and trauma to students and staff.”

“There is no empirical research supporting the benefits of school-based armed assailant drills with a sensorial experience, but typical lockdown drills without a sensorial experience do have benefits,” reads a summary of testimony from Walen and Lake Washington School District psychologist Kathryn Salveson.

According to data compiled by gun safety nonprofit Everytown Research & Policy and the Georgia Institute of Technology, over 95% of schools in the United States implement some form of active shooter drills, despite school shootings “accounting for less than 1% of the more than 40,000 annual U.S. gun deaths.”

In analysis of social media conversations spanning over 100 K-12 schools, Everytown and Georgia Tech found that “active shooter drills are associated with increases in depression (39%), stress and anxiety (42%), and psychological health problems (23%).”

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“The results were sobering,” the study notes.

Walen further argues that while school shootings are traumatizing for students, they are also “rare,” and as such, “we should probably not prepare our children to be anxious and afraid at schools.”

HB 1941 was approved in the Legislature in early March with bipartisan support in both the state House and Senate.

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Washington enacts limits on how schools can conduct active shooter drills