North Carolina high school faces backlash after unannounced lockdown drill traumatizes students

In a time where mass school shootings are tragically becoming a new normal, so much so that parents are buying bulletproof backpack inserts, even a practice lockdown drill can leave scarring effects on children who don’t know whether they are in real danger or not. WCNC Charlotte reported on a recent lockdown drill that negatively affected students.

On Wednesday, November 30, at Sun Valley High School in Monroe, North Carolina, a lockdown drill took place. Panicked students sent text messages to their parents, fearing for the worst. Everyone was upset and understandably so.

You might remember lockdown drill from your own school days. They happen suddenly and there is no prior warning given. Now, parents are forced to talk about the very real possibility of school shootings with kids of all ages. In this day and age where more than 25 school shootings occurred this year alone, all before the end of May, it can be extremely upsetting for students to go through a drill, not knowing if the danger is real or not.

Lt. James M. Maye, a public information officer for UCSO, said, “We’re not going to tell everybody ‘Hey, this is a drill, be prepared for it,’ because quite frankly, what we’ve seen in the past is people don’t take that as seriously,” reported WCNC Charlotte.

One family shared their student’s text messages with WCNC. Although the intention is preparing students for the worst possible scenario, the students’ reactions show just how scary the drill is for them.

One message said, “Something is going on at school, we are all hiding.”

Another message talked about the loud noises they heard during the lockdown drill. 

“I’m praying. I’m scared,” said another. 

“Our protocols and these drills are not meant to harm,” Maye added. “They are meant to train and to be used as a barometer of the success of our training, and the protocols we have in place for our kids.”

In 2021, Everytown Research and Policy released a study that said more than 95% of schools across the country take part in active shooter drills. In the same study, they also reported that these drills might be doing more harm than good. They said, “While there is limited proof of the effectiveness of these drills, anecdotal evidence, including many online conversations, increasingly suggests that active shooter drills may be harmful to mental health.” Both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) support their findings.

Kenneth Trump, a National School Safety Expert, said, “Research and experience show that lockdowns work. People with ill intentions, gunmen have a limited amount of time their adrenaline’s pumping, they know that they have to do what they intended to do quickly.”

WCNC also reported that there has been an uptick in the amount of local prank calls threatening violence. When that happens, local law enforcement and the target schools usually come together for a lockdown drill.

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, students who are affected by lockdown drills should be offered the appropriate resources. Union County schools, which houses the district where the lockdown took place, also said that resources are available for students who need them. They recently invested upwards of $180,000 in mental health resources for their high school students.

Per North Carolina Law, school safety drills are required.

“Parents or students that are upset about a spontaneous drill—I would just encourage them to stop, take a breath and realize that we’re not here to cause any undue harm or anguish for their student, or for that family,” Maye added.

Eventually the students were able to alert their loved ones that it was all just a drill. But, in all of the moments in between, the anguish, upset and worry that both parents and students suffered, is without a doubt heartbreaking.

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