Do Active Shooter Drills Do More Harm than Good?

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As active shooter drills become more common in schools, there’s debate over what type of drill is best. Do hyper realistic drills better prepare students, or are they unnecessarily traumatizing? Join students from PBS NewsHour’s student reporting labs as they investigate which kind of drills are most effective.

This is a special collab with PBS Newshour Student Reporting Labs, co-produced with students from Northview High School in Covina, California.

Want to your students to discuss this Above the Noise episode with peers from around the country? Sign up for KQED Learn ( and join the conversation (!

What are active shooter drills?

Active shooter drills are drills where students, teachers, staff and law enforcement practice what to do in case of a shooter on campus.

What are the different types of active shooter drills?


There isn’t one set national standard for active shooter drills. They can range from very realistic where there’s fake gunshots and fake blood to simple lockdown drills where teachers lock their doors and explain to students what they should do in the event of an active shooter. There’s also the run, hide, fight drill that teaches distraction techniques like throwing things at the shooter if they are unable to run or hide.

Do active shooter drills affect mental health?

Drills that are very realistic that trick students and teachers into thinking there’s an actual shooter can be very traumatizing. The Association of School Psychologists and the Association of School Safety Officials have created a list of best practices schools can use when designing active shooter drills as a way to protect students’ mental health.


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