(CN) — The recent massacre in Uvalde, Texas, like any school shooting before it, left the American public horror struck and grasping at ways to change. President Biden mentioned a few such proposals last week in a televised address. Billions of dollars are already being committed to prevent the next slaughter or reduce the body count. And while some of these plans even have a proven track record, the research suggests that a lot of what’s now being done is unproductive.
Active shooter drills. Back in 2020, the second largest teacher's labor union in America passed a resolution stating that it would oppose a policy of subjecting students to simulated trauma. “There is no evidence to support the idea that active shooter drills will save lives,” the American Federation of Teachers said in a statement at the time.
Because while there’s little to no hard evidence that these drills have any effect, there is evidence that the drills harm students’ mental health. One recent study analyzed 54 million social media posts and found that the drills increased students’ level of anxiety, depression and other psychological symptoms by about 40%.
Even Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit founded by family members of school-shooting victims, has started a petition to limit such drills.
“There hasn’t been a strong body of evidence that these drills are helping,” Megan Carolan, vice president of research at the Institute for Child Success in Greenville, South Carolina, told The New York Times last year.
As of 2016, 92% of American schools had a detailed plan for responding to shootings and 95% had drilled students on how to respond, according to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics.
Today, active shooter drills are required by law in 40 states — all except Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Massachusetts, Nebraska, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Ken Trump, president of the consulting firm National School Safety and Security Services, said there is some sense behind training students to follow lockdown procedures. But training them to attack the shooter is “absurd,” he told Courthouse News, and teaching them to run is a bad idea because it “creates a target-rich environment” and interferes with police who are trying to locate the culprit.
Four years ago, during the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the shooter was able to evade police precisely by blending in with fleeing students.
Police officers in schools. Almost half of all public schools now have a police officer on campus, often known as a school resource officer or SRO. The federal government alone has spent more than $1 billion to subsidize more than 46,000 such officers, according to the ACLU. More than 90% are armed.
“There have been numerous documented instances of SROs directly intervening to prevent or quickly mitigate active school shootings,” according to a 2020 report by the U.S. Department of Justice.
One year later, however, a Brown University study concluded that SROs “do not prevent school shootings or gun-related incidents" and tend to increase arrests and police referrals with a disproportionate effect on minorities.
JAMA meanwhile concluded, in a study of 39 years of school gun incidents, that “armed guards were not associated with significant reduction in rates of injuries” and that, after controlling for other factors, “the rate of deaths was 2.83 times greater in schools with an armed guard present.”
“There is no scientific evidence that having armed personnel on campus will prevent or stop a shooting,” said Dewey Cornell, a professor of education at the University of Virginia who studies school safety.
The effectiveness of police officers was recently called into question by reports that police officers were on the scene in Uvalde for over an hour before engaging the shooter. An armed SRO had also been present during the Parkland shooting but didn’t intervene.