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Washington state lawmakers consider limitations on active shooter drills in schools

Supporters of the bill think the exercises, with simulated gunfire, are traumatizing for kids, and say lockdown drills are more effective.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state lawmakers are considering a proposal to end active shooter drills in schools, though there could be some exceptions.

Supporters of the bill think the exercises, with simulated gunfire and sometimes a person mimicking an intruder, are traumatizing for children.

“Those are happening in our state, and I don't think that they should be,” said Rep. Amy Walen (D-Kirkland), the bill’s sponsor.

The most recent version of Walen's proposal would allow the drills if they are age-appropriate and trauma-informed, meaning educators would have to pay closer attention to how the exercises are impacting children.

“I think that at least parents should have the opportunity to know that it's going to happen. I think staff should know, and I think parents should have the opportunity to keep their kids home if there's going to be an active shooter scenario, which is where actual gunfire is mimicked, and potentially people running through the school making noises that sound like gunfire,” Walen said.

She said she thinks planned lockdown drills would be more appropriate, without the theatrics of a mock active shooter.

That's what the Bellevue School District does.

“If it's fear-inducing, or it's anxiety-inducing, our kids aren't going to learn, our kids aren't going to learn what their response should be, they're going to be focused on that fear factor, so we do not advocate for the use of props or flashbangs,” said Douglas James, director of security for the Bellevue School District.

He said the drills are different depending on the grade level, but focus on talking to children about listening, following directions, being aware of their surroundings, and reporting any possible threats.

“We have the conversation with our students about, you see something. It's important you say something so we can stop that violence ahead of time,” James said.

Walen’s bill advanced with bipartisan support on Tuesday.

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