Active shooter drills and lockdown drills are specific safety drills most often used in school settings to prepare students and staff to achieve maximum safety in the event of an active shooter.

However, evidence shows that active shooter drills and lockdowns can have a detrimental impact on students’ mental health and learning.

The vast majority of U.S. students experience lockdown drills. The proportion of public schools practicing active shooter drills increased from 40% in 2007 to 95% in 2017, with many states now requiring them. During the 2017-2018 school year, over 4.1 million students experienced at least one lockdown drill.

The majority of lockdown drills do not follow recommended strategies, which further traumatize and intimidate students.


of U.S. students have experienced a lockdown drill.

Students lay in a field outside Congress during the 2018 die in against gun violence

Feeling unsafe, helpless, afraid, or sad.

Students lay in a field outside Congress during the 2018 die in against gun violence

Despite the widespread practice of active shooter drills, only 6.7% of drills follow the national recommendations of “Run. Hide. Fight.” These drills leave 60% of students feeling unsafe, helpless, afraid, or sad.

Active shooter drills are associated with a 39% increase in depression, a 42% increase in stress and anxiety, and a 23% increase in other mental health issues.

Lockdown drills may also have a detrimental effect on students’ desire to go to school.

After she and her classmate hid in lockers and closets, not knowing if there was a real gunman at Lake Brantley High School in Orlando, FL, a high school senior woke up the next morning not wanting to go back to school.

In 2018, an East Orange, New Jersey, middle school active shooter drill left a student questioning if she was going to “finish the day alive.”

To create more effective active shooter drills, school psychologists must be included in the planning and implementation stages.

The National Association of School Psychologists recommends that schools implement a discussion-based exercise before the active shooter drill. School psychologists should be heavily involved in planning and practicing drills.

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Active shooter drills in schools

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