Albany, NY – Today, State Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon introduced a bill which would make improvements to the state-wide lockdown drill mandate by decreasing the mandated frequency of drills and ensuring that these lockdown drills are effective in helping children both be safe and feel safe in their schools. Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember Simon’s bill would seek to address that balance by:
- requiring advance notice of lockdown drills to parents and guardians;
- allowing parents and/or guardians to opt their children out as needed;
- providing accommodations for students with PTSD or other emotional or physical needs which may have a particularly negative experience with such drills
- mandating school staff ensure an age-appropriate explanation of the drills is shared with students
- providing thorough and standardized training for teachers and school staff on how best to conduct drills, including how to respond to students’ physical, emotional, social, and developmental needs during such drills.
Additionally, New York State requires schools to implement 4 lockdown drills per year: the highest of any state in the country. Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember Simon’s bill would reduce the mandate to one annual drill – allowing schools to continue with more drills if they find it productive for their individual school’s safety but ensuring that schools whose students need a different approach to the system of lockdown drills by implementing fewer drills per year are no longer penalized.
The mandate of 4 lockdown drills per year was passed into law in 2016 as part of the state’s annual budget, but these drills can have real and traumatic consequences on children. One study on the aftereffects of the drills shows that they led to a 39% spike in depression, a 42% increase in stress and anxiety, and a 23% increase in overall physiological health problems. In addition to this induced trauma, experts at Everytown for Gun Safety, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association also cite the feasibility of children retaining the information they are supposed to learn from the drills and increased risk of harm associated with fighting back against an active shooter.
Currently, many NYS teachers do not receive any formal training on how to conduct the drills and instead learn by trial-and-error. They are not taught how to handle potential technical issues, such as classrooms with physical limitations like windowed walls, or prepared for students’ emotional responses. The drills vary widely across classrooms and schools, with some teachers receiving no prior notice that a drill is going to occur or instructions on how to explain the drill to students. Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember Simon’s bill would ensure that teachers are trained and supported before they run lockdown drills, so that they can in turn support students with clarity and calm when it is needed most.
“Lockdown drills are traumatizing and terrifying. There’s a smarter and better way to do this,” said State Senator Andrew Gounardes. “We need to make sure that our kids both feel safe and are safe at school, even if the worst happens. We also need to make sure that we aren’t causing our children more trauma with excessive and ineffective lockdown drills. My bill is a clear and commonsense way to get us there.”
“It's abundantly clear that 4 lockdown drills a year in schools is excessive, ineffective, and very stressful for students. Active shooter drills are associated with increased anxiety and depression among schoolchildren, and traumatic for some students,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. “I've introduced a new bill, along with Senator Gounardes, to reduce the state's mandate of 4 lockdown drills to one drill per year, to properly train teachers in trauma-informed drills, and to give parents notice of the drills. We must not do more harm than good to our students by mandating ineffective practices and instead look to evidence-based solutions to reduce gun violence in our state. I'm grateful to the parents and Moms Demand Action for their advocacy on these common-sense improvements.”
“At Moms Demand Action we are first and foremost concerned with the safety and well-being of our children, and we are thankful that our legislators recognize that excessive lockdown and active shooter drills are harming our students,” said Sheffali Welch and Mary Amsterdam, members of Moms Demand Action NYC. “Studies show that frequent drills can have negative mental health impacts on children of all ages, especially when weighed against the lack of proven efficacy for multiple drills. By reducing the mandate, this bill allows local communities to evaluate and act on their needs and parents to ensure their children are not traumatized by exposure to repeated drills. The American Psychological Association reports that children’s mental health is in crisis, and we should do our best not to add to this fraught situation.At Moms Demand Action, we will continue to advocate for sensible gun legislation that keeps guns out of the hands of people who should not have them and keeps them out of places where they do not belong.”
“Lockdown drills can be important tools for ensuring students and teachers know how to protect themselves if a horrific school shooting occurs,” said Assemblymember Harvey Epstein. “At the same time, schools are meant to be safe places where kids feel protected. The current mandate of four lockdown drills risks traumatizing our children, instilling them with fears that an incident will occur, in the very place we want them to feel most safe. State Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember Simon’s bill would lower the mandate to 1 per year, allowing schools to make decisions at their discretion. This bill would also ensure these lockdown drills were trauma informed and that teachers were properly trained for these important drills while continuing to foster a safe and encouraging environment in our schools. This is an important piece of legislation that will protect our students and their mental health.”
“Under the present law, any child who attends a public or private school in New York state will participate in a total of 60 lockdown drills by the time they graduate,” said Robert Murtfeld, a parent with Moms Demand Action. “This is excessive and Senator Gounardes’ bill, which reduces the mandate to one drill per year, represents much needed reform to bring NYS in line with best practices. This bill also allows parents to opt out of drills if they believe that is best for their child, in line with recommendations for parental consent by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).”
“As an elementary school teacher, I joined Moms Demand Action with the goal of working to make our country safer for my students,” said Alyssa Postman Putzel, an elementary school teacher and Moms Demand Action volunteer. “Their wellbeing is my top priority, which is why it feels counterproductive that four times a year students and teachers in New York State must interrupt our instruction to participate in drills that have been shown to cause a 28% increase in stress and anxiety and a 30% increase in depression in the age group I teach. I support reducing the mandate for lockdown drills in New York State, and ensuring that all educators in the state can receive proper training in how to respond in the event of an emergency, which thanks to the strong gun laws in New York, are fortunately very rare.”