HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Active shooter drills in schools are becoming as regular as fire drills. But for young children in elementary school especially this can be a scary scenario.
WAFF spoke to officials at three school districts to determine how they handle these types of drills and how parents can talk to your children at home.
“It's a totally different culture I can't imagine what life is like now for kids. But that's all they've ever known,” said Huntsville resident Lauren Maleski.
Maleski has 2 kids in Huntsville city schools, a kindergartner and 2nd grader, and they both recently took part in an active shooter drill. “This year I didn’t know happened until after. It’s just such a part of their school experience. But I will say, they weren’t afraid. It’s just par for the course. They do severe weather drills, fire drills and now active shooter drills, that’s just what you do. “
School districts across the state are mandated by the state to do active shooter drills within the first 20 days of each school semester. And they’re required to do a total of two lockdown drills each school year.
WAFF spoke with school officials across 3 districts, and each of them highlighted the importance these drills play to the safety of our children.
Decatur City Schools Deputy Superintendent of School Safety, Dwight Satterfield knows the words ‘Active shooter’ can be scary to students, but especially, frightening to elementary school children. “We like to use movie clips and talk about the movie “Home Alone." We talk about some of the techniques in the movie in terms of concealment and escape and barriers between students and active shooters. We must manage preparedness versus anxiety. We try to talk to the kids and parents before the drill so that they are prepared. We don’t use scare tactics either.”
Madison County School’s Interim Superintendent Dr. Mark Minskey, says in 2018 officials with the Safe Schools Initiative came in doing an audit of how the district handled these drills and recommended a change.
“There are no more unannounced lockdown scenarios. The drills are now announced and we are all trained to work with staff so, everyone is prepared. There are no surprises. But we can practice and learn and handle an active shooter. We try to be age-appropriate. Typically, we let them know there’s a drill and for kindergartners, it’s just a drill. But as they get older we give them more information on how to react," said Dr. Minskey.
School districts across the state are continually modifying the way they execute and handle intruder or active shooter drills.
The Operations Director for Huntsville City Schools, Dr. Jeff Wilson says they’re trying to create a ‘process-oriented’ drill, also eliminating any type of role play that might create fear or panic in young children.
“It’s really important not to create any kind of environment to be frightening to children particularly elementary school so no mock active shooter running in halls, no casualties. These are process-oriented drills, an announcement is made and we use proper vocabulary. So as a teacher is going through this procedure, as they go to places and turn off lights, close blinds, they’re explaining that this is done to keep them safe in an emergency,” said Dr. Wilson.
For parents like Lauren Mileski, she wishes her two boys didn’t have to go through these types of drills. But at the same time, she’s thankful to know school officials are working to ensure her kids’ safety.
“I love the school they go to and I feel like they are invested in my kids. So, whatever they need to do to make sure my kids are safe, I’m all for it. I would expect nothing less,” added Maleski.
All public schools have already had one active shooter drill. There will be one more before the end of the school year.
School officials we spoke to encouraged parents and teachers to make it *clear* school shootings, just like fires, are unlikely, but that planning is a way for them all to stay safe.