School active shooters drills are intended to prepare for saving lives, but recent lawsuits and injury claims suggest that some drills may pose a greater risk of harm than good to training participants.
Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article entitled,” ‘Active Shooter’ Drills Spark Raft of Legal Complaints” tells of a teacher in Boardman, Ohio, who filed a lawsuit against local police and school officials, claiming he was unexpectedly tackled by a police officer during a drill at a high school, seriously injuring his hip and shoulder.
Todd Fuller, a spokesman for the Missouri State Teachers Association, says his organization has received complaints about active-shooter drills. “Instead of saying, ‘I’m ready to help now,’ their reaction has been, ‘I don’t know what I will be able to do in this situation,’ ” Fuller told the Wall Street Journal.
Last March, four teachers in Farmington, Mo., complained to the county prosecutor’s office that they felt uncomfortable with an announced high school drill in which an airsoft gun, which fires plastic pellets, was used.
Drills to fill emotional security needs lead to reported injuries, minimize child-centered considerations
Nearly a year ago, I wrote about my concerns with reported school staff injuries in programs such as the “Counter” component of ALICE (Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate) or the “fight” component of run-hide-fight training. In my blog article entitled, “ALICE training and run-hide-fight: Are students and educators risking injury?,” I shared a disturbing email received from an Ohio school principal in which she indicated that she received a broken shoulder during an ALICE training session.
“I recently broke my shoulder during ALICE training. As an elementary principal, this is not the sort of thing one would expect during professional development,” the principal wrote.
This fad of teaching teachers and children to throw things at, and to attack, heavily armed gunmen, is increasingly driven by well-intended law enforcement officers with heavy tactical experience and mindsets, but limited-to-no real preK-12 school experience and/or insights into how children and schools work. Age and developmental issues, special needs children (autistic, behavioral disorders, etc.) and related factors seem to be irrelevant to some advocates who are more focused on addressing emotional security needs of people to feel “empowered” after the Sandy Hook attacks than they are on the details and risks of implementing what many believe are over-the-top active shooter school trainings.
School active shooter drill lawsuits and insurance claims likely to rise
If these training programs are triggering a “raft of legal complaints,” think of how many complaints school insurance companies across the nation are facing due to such questionable and controversial training. Most established and experienced preK-12 school security experts agree that there are dangers with these questionable programs and that injury and liability risks abound.
Unfortunately, as more incidents like those in the Wall Street Journal article come to light, we are likely to see school insurance carriers pay out more and more limited money on unnecessary injury claims and lawsuits from questionable school active shooter drills. Litigation will likely correct this risky fad, but it will come at a cost to schools.
The good news is that superintendents and school boards have the power to prevent such claims from occurring. They just need to think cognitively and rationally, not emotionally. There are many proven, reliable and research-based school security and emergency preparedness training programs, tabletop exercises and joint police training methods for schools to choose from that are delivered in professional development settings without teachers throwing objects at each other’s heads or piliing up on the floor on top of a hypothetical armed gunman.
Our advice has been that school leaders should engage their school insurance carriers and attorneys on the front-end to get written opinions before implementing these new and questionable active shooter drills. This may help superintendents and boards from being called upon to defend a well-intended, but poorly thought-out, training program that they sanctioned for their staff and/or children.
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