TROY, MO — A new Missouri state law requires that all school districts must participate in mandatory live-action school shooting drills, which may include realistic gunfire, student covered in fake blood, and bodies strewn throughout the hallways.
In August 2013, state legislators decreed that all public school personnel must be present for these mock massacres. The sessions range from 4-8 hours and may involve police officers storming the school and saving everyone from the fake gunman (or gunmen).
A drill at Troy Buchanan High School on January 29th was particularly graphic and was allowed to be documented by the media.
The elaborate drill included dozens of volunteer students spattered in fake blood, plus the entirety of the school staff, as well as members of the local police department. After the majority of the students had been dismissed for the day, police officers described to the remaining group on campus how the drill would transpire, and warned them to look out for “bad guys with AR-15s.” Students describe being excited at first, hoping to “get shot.” Their excitement turned to terror after the drill began.
“The first time I did one, the tears were real, and I had to call my grandma,” said Amanda Preston to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
The action began as three rifle-toting gunmen burst through multiple entrances — dashing past the “no guns” signs — and began using their simulation firearms to gun down anyone who crossed their path. The loud “pops” of the blank rounds were accompanied by so much gun smoke that they triggered a fire-alarm, adding to the confusion and terror.
Staff members observed as bodies piled up in the hallways and classrooms. Strong acting was not required, as teachers and students were visibly shaken to the point of tears and sobbing.
Teachers learned valuable lessons, such as how to close a door all the way, and how to dial 9-1-1. Missouri’s drills avoid training the teachers with useful skills, such as self-defense with an actual weapon.
Unarmed students have but one recourse: look for places to hide. They found few. The bathroom stalls wouldn’t work because of the continual flushing of the automatic toilets. The standard plan of action is for students to sit in their classroom with the door closed and wait.
At one point one of the gunmen — actually a school police officer — grabbed a freshman girl and ordered her at gunpoint to bang on classroom doors to try and get those inside to open up.
“I’ve done this like 10 times, and it gets me every time,” said Alex Bargen, 17, to NBC News. “It made me think, you have to look at everyone as a threat. That sounds so harsh, but you don’t know anybody’s story.”
Seventeen year old Kiera Loveless thought the terror drills would look good on her college applications. She had never heard real gunshots and “thought it would be fun at first,” she said to NBC. “Now I wouldn’t say fun exactly—it’s scary.” She says she “didn’t even really have to pretend” to be “terrified.” She added: “I kept having to remind myself ‘this isn’t real, this isn’t real.’”
In between the volleys of gunfire, the gunmen dropped mock IEDs in the hallway — made out of PVC pipe — simulating the use of explosives in the school.
The drill ended after the Troy Police Department swarmed into the school — past the “no guns” signs — and hunted down the shooters, winning the fight.
Officials say the training is more for the cops and school staff than it is for the students. But are these bizarre drills a judicious use of limited resources? Are they statistically justified? Are they effective? Is there a better way for teachers to react to an actual emergency other than cowering in a closet and waiting for people with guns to show up?
Seeing that even in a best case scenario, the ground was already littered with bodies by the time the police arrived, it seems there may be room for better ideas in the arena of school security. Would hanging more “no guns” signs avert another tragedy? Perhaps it is time to abandon the idea that schools are places where the Bill of Rights does not apply, and the penalties for exercising the right to bear arms should be removed so that schools are no longer legally devoid of protection.
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