Current Research: The Mental Health Effects of Lockdown Drills in Schools
It's heart-breaking and distressing to hear about acts of incredible gun violence in schools across the US. Instead of enacting laws to reduce firearm accessibility, most states now have mandatory lockdown drills as a preventive measure in case of an attack. This topic is of interest to teachers of my generation in particular because we were the first generation of students to undergo mandatory lockdown drills at school. Public school teachers in Ontario and New Jersey are required to facilitate these drills at least twice a year. Schools can, but are not required, to provide advance notice of lockdown drills.
What the research shows:
Teachers report a lack of training for facilitating lockdown drills and a lack of debrief after the event.
Students who complete repeated lockdown drills report increased feelings of preparedness, but reduced feelings in safety.
Students at all ages report uncertainty about what kind of threats the drills protect them against. High school students may think of active-shooters, but small children may think about animals/monsters/kidnappers.
If students are not informed that the threat is not real, the experience can be distressing and traumatizing.
In my literature review article, I present several academic perspectives on school lockdown drills. These perspectives address current lockdown drill processes, the mental health effects of school lockdown drills, as well as suggestions from education and psychology experts based on empirical evidence. I discuss several preventive measures which are used in addition to lockdown drills to reduce the threat of violence in schools. These preventive measures include zero-tolerance policies, psychological profiling, threat assessment, and environmental design. Finally, I discuss the essential role of mental health support at school to maintain social-emotional well-being, improve academic achievement, improve behavior, and prevent acts of violence in school from occurring. I conclude by examining my personal experiences with lockdown drills, considering the benefits and shortcomings of lockdown drills, and suggest that there are potentially more holistic methods for emergency preparedness without harming mental health.