School Shooter Drills Can Be Traumatizing, But There Are Options for Empowering Students

The recent shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch near Denver serves as a stark reminder of the fear of gun violence that many school children carry with them every day. Aside from news coverage of school shootings, this fear can stem from playing out crisis scenarios and active-shooter drillers, say experts.

In a recent article in The Atlantic, University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) historian Paula Fass likened the modern-day fear of school shootings to the fear of falling victim to a nuclear bomb during the 1950s. In the 1980s and 1990s, when the faces of abducted children appeared everywhere from television to milk cartons, the all-pervasive fear was about being kidnapped.

Preparing children for these types of calamities can have traumatizing effects and, while all of these scenarios are certainly tragic, they are relatively rare, Fass states.

More than 4.1 million students participated in a practice lockdown during the 2017-2018 school year, according to The Washington Post. Student reactions during these anxiety-inducing situations have ranged from young children wetting to older students drafting wills and goodbye letters to their families, according to the article in The Atlantic.

There are, however, a growing number of options for empowering young people in the fight against gun violence. Johns Hopkins University (JHU), for example, recently launched a free online course aimed at high school and college students that provides strategies for decreasing gun violence. The first course of its kind, it aims to help young people wade through the large amount of conflicting information that is available about guns, according to a report by NPR. It also equips them with the latest public health research so that they are prepared to work with policymakers and political candidates on reducing gun violence.

Students who complete the course receive a certificate, but the JHU professors and gun safety experts who designed the class say even those students who don’t complete the class will be better prepared to serve as activists in the largely youth-driven fight against gun violence, according to NPR. They are hoping for 20,000 registrants annually.