The Oxford High School school shooting in Michigan on Tuesday was the latest string of campus violence involving an active shooter resulting in a tragic loss of life -- four students this time.
Prior to this week's carnage, Oxford students regularly participated in an active shooter drill known as ALICE -- “alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate" -- but the massacre calls into question whether the training actually works.
J.P. Guilbault, chief executive of Navigate360, which owns ALICE, said the program teaches staff and students "barricading, where to lock down, communication and code words, and how to use noise distraction and create distance. Countering or fighting is a last resort.”
“I think the training is helpful,” 16-year-old Oxford student Joyeux Times told The New York Times. “It saved a lot of students’ lives.”
Megan Carolan, vice president of research at the Institute for Child Success, disagreed.
“There hasn’t been a strong body of evidence that these drills are helping," Carolan said, later referring to active shooter drills as “potentially traumatic,” especially for younger students.
Carolan said an alternate approach to the active shooter drills might be to mitigate the risk of school shootings so that children develop “emotional regulation, identifying when something feels off and feeling comfortable speaking up to an adult."
A National Center for Education Statistics study revealed that between 2017-2018, 91 percent of public schools reported they had a plan for procedures to be performed in the event of bomb threats or incidents. The percentage of schools that had a plan in place for procedures to be performed in the event of an active shooter increased over time, from 79 percent in 2003-2004 to 92 percent in 2017-2018.
In 2017-18, schools were also asked whether they had drilled students during the current school year on the use of selected emergency procedures. About 96 percent of public schools had drilled students on a lockdown procedure, 93 percent had drilled students on evacuation procedures and 83 percent had drilled students on shelter-in-place procedures.
The federal Gun-Free Schools Act was introduced into law as part of the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994. The federal law requires states funded under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to have a state law in effect that requires local education agencies to expel students for firearm offenses for a period of no less than one year.
Sara Rezvi is a former public school teacher in Chicago who recalled a ninth-grade student once asking her during a lockdown drill, “Ms. Rezvi, would you take a bullet for us if somebody walked in with a gun?”
“There are no mental health resources for the before, during and after,” Rezvi said. “None of this is what any of us signed up for, and it’s exhausting that nothing is being done about it.”