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Viewpoints from the Journal

Viewpoints from the interdisciplinary leaders in optimal developmental and behavioral health for all children.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Active shooter drills. What's the evidence for effectiveness?
A high school in Pennsylvania ​informed parents that it would be conducting an active shooter drill today (Thursday, September 13) using blanks to expose everyone to the sound of gunfire. Unsurprisingly this decision has incited a lot of responses of differing opinions regarding the necessity or advisability of such realism in the simulation.

We dug into our archive, and present to you this small collection of articles about guns, violence, and interventions at school.

Dr. Marjorie Hardy provides two studies (Article 1, Article 2) on gun interventions in a range of school-age and adolescent children, finding that, especially in the young children, interventions that try to make guns seem less desirable may have no or the opposite effect.

Dr. Oscar Purugganan and colleagues provide a study that looked at “proximity to violence” and its impact on psychosocial outcomes. Not surprisingly, those that are actual victims of violence have the greatest risk of maladjustment. However, we also learned that witnesses of violence are also at risk and must not be forgotten.

Finally, Dr. Judit Thurnherr and colleagues provide an analysis showing that any intervention for curbing youth violence in school needs to address classroom and school-wide attitudes, in addition to the risk factors of the individual student.

Clearly, more information is needed to find the best ways of preventing gun violence and keeping our kids safe. Regardless of where you stand specifically on the issue of firearms, I ask that you please consider that this issue is more than just about the guns, the victims, or the shooters.

There are a lot of other consequences to any intervention. In carrying them out, let’s make sure we’re doing our best to also protect our kids’ mental health and their trust in our communities. After all, what good is preventing violence if by doing so we also scare the life out of them, stifle their growth, and inhibit them from ever venturing out to make the world a better place.

--Jeffrey H. Yang, M.D.

JDBP Web Editor

For best practices on active shooter drills I referred you to the this guide from the National Association of School Psychologists.