Are surprise mass shooting drills appropriate in schools?


Last Friday, some folks at Pine Eagle Charter School in Halfway, Oregon pulled a surprise drill on a group of teachers. Two masked men burst into a teachers meeting (kids were not present at school that day) and started shooting. Sure, they shot blanks and nobody was physically injured, but there are greater repercussions here.

First of all, let us remember that it is not a common occurrence to have an active shooter rampaging at a school. This is part of why it is so stark when it does happen.

To simulate terror in hopes of gaining perspective and developing preparedness is a questionable exercise. What is gained from this situation? Teachers are already frightened enough by the media overdramatizing the horrific events at Sandy Hook and other places.

The teachers received training prior to this terrorizing exercise, but how do you prepare yourselves for a surprise attack? It’s called a “surprise” attack for a reason. How are they supposed to prepare themselves? By arming themselves, or teaching from a bunker? They were left feeling like sitting ducks.

Yes, the teachers are left to ponder their troubled existence, and thank their lucky stars that they were spared a real terrorist attack at their meeting. They are perhaps more agitated, more terrorized, more rattled, having been shot at with blanks and escaping simulated death. But are they more prepared? What are they more prepared for?

Does their thinking now set them on high alert for more drills? And how do they plan to react in the next drill? Will they have guns at the ready the next time the principal summons a group of actors to simulate another terror drill? Or should the teachers just carry blanks as well so they don’t kill the actors?

I fail to see what is gained in this exercise. It terrorizes teachers to think they are teaching in war zones, and have to be on red alert at all times. Maybe we should start putting on masks and shooting blanks at our children just before they’re ready for bed, just so they’re better prepared for a possible terrorist attack. “Sweet dreams, honey… Now reach for the sky! Blam! Blam!”

People want to do something to fix the situation so that we can go back to the business of teaching kids and feeling safe. Well, terrorizing people even with faux bullets doesn’t mitigate the terror; it exacerbates it. The problem is not that we have a rash of shootings spreading as an epidemic, contrary to what the mass media is trumpeting.

The problem is that there are individuals who are being isolated by our culture, leading to the dehumanization of others. Some people are becoming so detached from their surroundings and their fellow human beings that they can objectify them and not sense the miraculous and infinite value of their existence.

Mental Health and GunsThis is a social issue, a community issue and a mental health issue. Everyone can improve their mental health, it’s not just meant for “crazy” people. I think of it like other health issues, sometimes you get a cold, and you have to stop what you’ve been doing and take care of yourself so you can get better. The same goes with mental health, there are plenty of mental health “viruses” out there.

The trick is to treat yourself early before it becomes a big problem, but this is an often under-represented, second thought of people in America. We don’t talk openly about our mental health, to do so would be uncomfortable. By the looks of things, it’s even more uncomfortable than having someone scare the crap out of you by firing blanks at your face.


  1. Were I a teacher there, I’d have handed in my resignation as soon as the ‘training session’ ended. This is beyond ridiculous; it is veering into sadistic.

  2. Such foolish, juvenile acts prove or accomplish nothing beyond setting the stage for permanent anxiety & dread…the ever expected sense of doom & downfall. A healthy society cannot live under such a paler of continuing gloom.

  3. My quick read gave me the wrong info.Sorry! I now realize that this test was done without children in the classroom. My questions still stand asked if this moves into a test in a full classroom. I hope the NRA doesn’t go that far.

  4. Having been an elementary teacher for a number of years, I cannot imagine the horror of having a surprise shooter enter my classroom. The trauma that this would do to a child, may easily stay with that child for the rest of his/her life , not to mention the teacher. I wonder how the parents reacted? How would this “exercise” help anyone prepare for the real thing, when the real thing can be done in so many different ways? I am so glad that my teaching days are over and i do not have to wear body armor in the class room!

    Sue Drake ( Melanie’s mom)

  5. Well done, Michael. This “training” in Oregon was ridiculous. Can’t imagine what they truly hoped to accomplish. I wish society would understand, as you have stated here, that a multi-faceted approach is necessary in addressing these violent mass shootings. Sure, gun control is important. But mental health is a huge component. We, society, must break the taboos associated with mental health issues. We need to address, understand and treat these illnesses.

  6. So true. Sad and true. When will we wake up as a society and learn how to really succeed in avoiding mass shootings? Get rid of the guns. Provide accessible, affordable health care. Love (and get to know) your neighbor.

  7. The scenario you depict is truly frightening. It’s hard to see any positives in the idea of terrifying teachers. Your last paragraph really hits the nail on the head.

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