Fake Blood and Blanks: Schools Stage Active Shooter Drills
Does this story bother you, as it does me? These students are being terrorized and desensitized. They are being indoctrinated into not trusting anyone. – Shorty Dawkins, Associate Editor
This article comes from NBCNews.com
ROY, Mo.—In a cramped, carpeted amphitheater in the basement of Troy Buchanan High School, 69 students are waiting to die.
“You’ll know when it pops off,” says Robert Bowen, the school’s campus police officer. “If you get engaged with one of the shooters, you’ll know it.”
“When you get shot, you need to close your fingers and keep ‘em in,” adds Tammy Kozinski, the drama teacher. “When the bad guy and the police come through, they’ll step all over you, and who will be saying they’re sorry?”
“Nobody!” the students cry in unison.
(Editor’s note: There is a 2 minute video to be seen on the NBC website.)
This isn’t a bizarre, premeditated mass murder or some twisted sacrifice led by a student cult. These are the 20 minutes preceding an active shooter drill, the 13th one Missouri’s Lincoln County school district has staged in the past year.
All but 69 students have gone home for the day on early dismissal. These volunteer victims, mostly culled from the school’s drama class, are outfitted in fake-bloody bullet wounds, still wet and dripping down their foreheads, necks and chests. Bowen tells them what to expect: They’ll see “bad guys with AR-15s” shooting blanks during a simulated “passing period”—the moments when one class ends and the other begins. PVC pipes will be dropped on the floor to approximate IEDs. Crystal Lanham, a baby-faced freshman with long, gently-crimped brown hair, receives the dubious honor of being chosen as one of the gunmen’s hostages. She’s thrilled.
“I just really wanna get shot,” she jokes. “Is that weird?”
(Before a school shooting simulation at Troy Buchanan High School, students Lauren Timmer, right, and Nick Guyot, use stage makeup to create fake wounds.)
In the wake of mass shootings from Columbine to Sandy Hook to many in between, schools have devised new and creative ways to prepare for tragedy. Most have adapted some form of the standard lockdown drill, but some districts have gone further, with programs teaching kids self-defense, proposals to train teachers with firearms—and full-scale drills like the one that’s about to happen in Troy, a town about an hour northwest of St. Louis.
In Missouri, it’s not only a trend; it’s the law. In August 2013, the state legislature took a cue from a handful of post-Sandy Hook lawmakers, like the ones in Illinois and Arkansas, and voted to require every school district to conduct simulated shooter drills. Because the law goes into effect this year, 20 superintendents from across the state are here to take notes.
Back in the drama room, the energy is jovial and jittery. Some kids, like Lanham, have never participated in a drill before. Others are veterans of simulations staged with high school volunteers in nearby elementary and middle schools (after the younger kids have gone home). Lanham is visibly excited, but some students, like 17-year-old Alex Bargen, are a little on-edge.
“I’ve done this like 10 times, and it gets me every time,” says Bargen, who agreed to do the drill as extra credit for drama class. “This one is even scarier because it’s on my home turf. It’s going to make me second-guess my school.”
“It’s a bit nerve-wracking because I’m disabled and can’t really run away,” says Katie Ladlie, 15, who is in a wheelchair. Her plan is to go into the elevator to the third floor and either slump in her wheelchair or fall out of it when the gunman shows up.
Kiera Loveless, 17, who has done eight drills before, “thought it would be fun at first. Now I wouldn’t say fun exactly—it’s scary. But a good experience.”
Loveless signed up because she thought it would look good on college applications. The first time she participated, she was “terrified.” She’d only heard gunshots on television. “I didn’t even really have to pretend. I kept having to remind myself ‘this isn’t real, this isn’t real.’”