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Assemblymember Ward Introduces Legislation to Provide Guidelines for Active Shooter Drills in California Schools

For immediate release:
Assemblymember Ward at a press conference on AB 1858.

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Active shooter drills have sadly become a new normal in schools across the country following several tragic mass shooting events. However, a continued push for students and staff to be “proactive” during these events to save more lives has led to drills that simulate mock shootings with trainers acting out the part of a school shooter, students lying on the floor to represent victims, and even the use of fake weapons and blood. Assemblymember Chris Ward has introduced AB 1858, the Safe and Prepared Schools Act, to ensure there are guidelines for schools to follow on how to responsibly conduct active shooter drills.

“When it comes to fire drills, we are not filling the halls with smoke and turning up the thermostat,” said Assemblymember Ward (D-San Diego). “We should not be doing the same to our kids when it comes to active shooter drills. This legislation will set clear standards for California schools on how to move forward with these drills, as well as ensure the students who participate have easy access to mental health resources. We need to make sure these drills are not doing more harm than good in preparing our students in the possibility of these tragic events occurring.”

A joint study conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety and the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Social Dynamics and Wellbeing Lab found a link between active school drills and a dramatic increase in depression, anxiety, stress and other mental health concerns for students following their participation, as well as significant impacts to their physical health. While it is important that students are prepared in the event an active shooter comes onto their campus, there is little evidence that affirms the effectiveness of these drills in preventing school shootings or protecting the school community when shootings do occur.

There have been at least two documented instances of an active shooter drill in a California school causing concern from parents and school staff. In one case, a school administrator failed to notify parents or school staff about an active shooter drill, leading to mass confusion and panic. The other more recent case involved a school principal who was put on a leave of absence after pretending to shoot students during an active shooter drill.

Despite there being little evidence active shooter drills are effective in reducing or preparing schools for violence, active shooter training has become a big business for companies pushing schools to be more pro-active. The school security industry now encompasses everything from bullet-proof whiteboards, facial recognition technology and transparent backpacks –– an estimated $2.7 billion market.

"I am devastated that school shooter drills have become such a common part of our children's education, but it is a grim reality we must face given the egregious school shootings that have occurred in our country and state,"
 said Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson). "Our responsibility as lawmakers is to ensure that schools are prepared to handle emergencies effectively, while minimizing the potential of traumatizing our students. This is why I am a proud co-author of AB 1858, introduced by my colleague from San Diego, which will provide schools with a much-needed evidence-based framework for school shooter drills." 

AB 1858
 would create a permissive and structured procedural guidance to be available through the California Department of Education that is focused on preparedness, open communication, and minimizing the trauma that currently is caused by school shooter drills. The guidance will include standardized week-of parental notification that an event is to take place, day-of parental notification after the event has taken place, a requirement that the drills are age appropriate for the students experiencing them, a school-wide announcement that a drill is being conducted at the start of the drill, and following the drill information with local resources to be available to address potential issues raised by students and parents. This bill will prohibit the use of simulated fire in school shooter drills. Local education agencies and schools will be able to implement this policy into their individual school safety plans.