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When I learned my kid’s preschool would hold active-shooter drills, I permanently pulled her out of in-person learning

When I learned my kid’s preschool would hold active-shooter drills, I permanently pulled her out of in-person learning

December 12, 2022 6:25 pm

I pulled my 3-year-old from in-person preschool a few years ago. I couldn’t let a place of learning implant visions of violence in a child so young she didn’t even know the word.

My daughter is sensitive. I knew she’d be negatively affected by shooter-response drills, and she already felt anxious at school, a new environment for her. If she was afraid, she wouldn’t be able to absorb what she was there to learn, whether that was letters, numbers, or how to listen during lockdowns.

I didn’t want to normalize violence for her

I was hesitant to withdraw her from public school so early in her education but felt the intensity of these drills would be harmful to her development. I didn’t want to normalize in her young mind threats of shootings. Because she’s a child already prone to worrying, I couldn’t expose her to the long-term effects of that trauma.

Deirdre Myers, a residential therapist with the Bay Area Women’s Center in Michigan, told Insider: “Young children are unable to understand the differences between drills and reality, but developing secure attachments with teachers could aid with following instructions in the case of an active shooter.”

Despite this, drills are conducted in classrooms across the US every day. Forty states mandate some type of active-shooter-response training.

Our local district uses ALICE, a for-profit facilitator of active-shooter training. ALICE stands for “alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate.” The program would have exposed my preschooler to mock shots and taught her barricading practices and strategies for distracting shooters.

I was most concerned about the “counter” step of the training. This step directs students to use combat tactics on an adult with a gun. It has kids running chaotically in a zigzag pattern. I taught my child to remain calm in emergencies, so this lesson contradicted what she knew.

I’m not the only one who thinks drills at this age are unnecessary

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against these kinds of drills, and there’s no national certifying agency for shooter-response-training organizations. I was far from convinced this was necessary.

Kadesha Adelakun, a registered child-play therapist and the owner of The Journey Counseling Services in Georgia, said: “Children can be indirectly traumatized by the simulation of an active shooting. They can become more fearful of being shot at school but also around their home.”

I wrote a letter on behalf of my community to the school board. I requested exemptions for kids with disabilities, kids with special needs, kids with limited English-speaking ability, and kids with existing traumas. I asked the board to divert the funds from the drills into adding more counselors. But it never responded, and I began to question the value system of our schools.

So I pulled my daughter out of preschool.

Emergencies and safety are things my daughter could comprehend. I explained to her that just as we practiced for emergencies at home, they practiced for emergencies at school.

It’s hard to talk about shooter drills in age-appropriate ways

She was perceptive and understanding but had a few questions about why the school wasn’t safe. It was difficult to frame it in an age-appropriate and honest way. I focused on reassuring her. I told her it was my job to protect her, including her brain, and I couldn’t let her be in a situation that seemed unsafe for her mind.

Today my daughter is 8. She’s spent only two months in the public school system. She’s never attended an active-shooter drill, and she’s never been involved in an active-shooter scenario.

Her schooling options are an ongoing conversation now that she’s older. So far, she has no interest in attending a traditional school, and she has no idea that sometimes people get shot there. She’s enrolled in a virtual school that holds live classes, has a robust curriculum, and conducts no drills.

My kid’s safety is my job.

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