Active shooter drills may not be as controversial as has been portrayed in many communities. Superintendents and administrators who conduct these exercises can feel reassured that a majority of parents think their children should participate in at least one active shooter drill per school year, a new poll has found.
Nearly two-thirds of K12 parents—regardless of party affiliation—support active shooter drills and most of them agree the exercises should be evidence-based and age-appropriate, according to the Ipsos survey. A little more than half of the parents surveyed said their child had participated in an active shooter drill.
Only a small fraction of parents said they, themselves, had ever taken part in an active shooter drill.
However, when asked to choose between physical security measures and social-emotional learning, a majority of parents preferred that their schools invest in SEL. Parents also said schools should prioritize security strategies such as metal detectors, clear backpacks and armed guards over training measures such as active shooter drills or preparing teachers to carry guns.
As for what happens during active shooter drills, most parents favored lockdown procedures (88%), blocking doors with furniture (79%) and warning students ahead of time (78%). Far fewer supported noisier measures such as banging on classroom doors or simulating gunshots.
Ultimately, most parents (83%) expressed confidence in their school’s ability to keep children safe, though only about a third of those adults said they were very confident while the rest were somewhat confident.
School safety, aside from active shooter drills
The poll also gauged parents’ and other Americans’ views on a range of school safety issues. A slightly higher number of respondents preferred hardening schools over making guns harder to access to prevent school shootings. Americans are also divided about whether the bulk of the protections should come from policies made outside schools or from armed personnel inside schools.
The survey found:
- About half (52%) say America should prioritize hardening buildings to reduce the number of school shootings while 45% say making guns harder to access should be the priority.
- Nearly half of Americans (48%) say federal, state and local government should be most responsible for keeping children safe from gun violence in school; 28% say school resource officers or school security should be most responsible.
- Most Democrats favor SEL—such as anti-bullying programming and mental health education—while the majority of Republicans want greater investment in metal detectors, clear backpacks, school resource officers and other physical security measures.