Active Shooter Training In American Schools Has Become The New Normal

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The south Florida high school massacre that killed at least 17 people is at least the sixth school shooting this year. As these incidents become more commonplace, so have trainings and drills that prepare teachers and students for a potential active shooter.

One teacher at the Florida school, Melissa Falkowski, told CNN things could have been “a lot worse” if she hadn’t received training a few weeks earlier. “I managed to put 19 kids in the closet with me,” she said.

Roughly 88% of all K–12 students across the US attend schools that have a plan in place for possible emergencies, according to a survey conducted by the Government Accountability Office published in April 2016. Nowadays, the vast majority of these plans include active shooters as a threat.

This chart breaks down all the hazards and threats that school districts have included in their emergency plans. Of all districts that have a written plan, 96% addressed the threat of active shooters:

Source: US Government Accountability Office


This is a breakdown of the kinds of exercises performed in schools. Of all the districts that had performed any kind of exercise — such as a monthly or yearly drill — related to hazards and threats, more than two-thirds had performed a drill related to active shooters:

Source: US Government Accountability Office


There’s no federal law that governs issues around school emergencies, making it hard to track how demand for this kind of training has increased over years.

But a quick search on Google Trends reveals how the search term for “active shooter training” has increased since 2004:

Source: Google Trends

Google Trends

After Columbine, the demand for in-school training “increased dramatically,” said Ken Trump — no relation to the president — a school safety expert and president of the consulting firm National School Safety and Security Services. But this demand has leveled off and flares up mostly when shootings make national headlines.

Though active shooters are now a part of almost every school’s emergency plan, the quality and effectiveness of the trainings can vary, said Trump.

“There’s a competition in schools for time and money,” said Trump. “Unfortunately, if there’s not a crisis,” safety training does not remain a priority.


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