Once schools re-open, resulting research will help state leaders and school administrators maximize effectiveness of drills and minimize trauma to students and staff

From the Office of U.S. Representative Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla

U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., and Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., announced yesterday the approval by the House Appropriations Committee, of $1 million for independent experts to publish a study on the potential mental health effects of active shooter drills in elementary and secondary schools—an effort that Murphy and Perlmutter spearheaded. Once schools re-open in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the report will give state leaders and school administrators information they can use to maximize the effectiveness of the drills, while minimizing the trauma to students—especially younger students and students with disabilities—and staff members.

Under the Murphy-Perlmutter initiative, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine would use the congressional funding to examine the possible emotional and behavioral effects on students and staff of active shooter drills, lockdown drills, and other firearm violence prevention activities in K-12 schools. Their report would identify best practices that can be adopted to minimize these negative impacts. The Murphy-Perlmutter provision was approved by the House Appropriations Committee this week as part of the bill providing funding for the U.S Department of Education.

“As a mom with two young children, I’ve had to talk with them about the traumatic experience of an active shooter drill at their school and answer many heartbreaking questions, including why a drill was even needed in the first place,” said Murphy. “The Parkland shooting in Florida tragically reminded us of the importance of student and staff preparedness. As states put in place plans to ensure students can safely return to the classroom once this pandemic subsides, we must also give school administrators the tools they need to most effectively conduct active shooter drills. This expert study will help us protect students from the physical threat of school shootings without causing lasting psychological trauma in the process.”

There is substantial anecdotal evidence showing a connection between school safety drills and negative mental health effects on students and staff, but additional empirical research is required. Organizations like the National Association of School Psychologists and Everytown for Gun Safety, working with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, have done important work to develop best practices and make recommendations regarding school safety drills.

A majority of American teens say they are worried about the possibility of a shooting happening at their school, and the National Center for Education Statistics found that 95 percent of U.S. public schools conduct school safety drills annually.

U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy represents Florida’s Seventh Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where she serves on the influential House Ways and Means Committee. The district includes all of Seminole County and much of northern Orange County, including downtown Orlando, Maitland, Winter Park, and the University of Central Florida. Previously, Murphy was a businesswoman and college instructor who also served as a national security specialist in the Office of the Secretary of Defense where she received numerous awards, including the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service. Murphy lives in Winter Park with her husband and two children.

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