This past spring, a BHS student threatened to carry out an attack involving firearms. Two BHS students were victims of gun violence just this past month. Just recently a fatal shooting occurred at an intersection near the BHS campus. Some believe that lockdown drills are a way to prevent further harm, while others they are not an effective tool to keep students safe in the case of an active shooter.
Senior Raina Nelson said, “(I’m) grateful we do them … (because they) help build the muscle memory that will be vital in any emergency response.” Nelson said preparing for a situation as “chaotic, unfamiliar, and terrifying as an active-shooter situation” is crucial for all students, so that they “are still prepared to execute the steps necessary to remain safe.”
Rebecca Villagran, a Berkeley International High School (BIHS) history teacher has a different perspective. “I don’t think (lockdown drills are) very effective and it gives this false idea that if there was an active shooter, there would be a way to fight back against somebody with a gun,” she said, “What we really need is to know if we were going to evacuate, where do we evacuate to?”
For some, lockdown drills are more than just hiding under a desk, turning the lights off, and locking the door. “I have to ensure that students and staff who require accommodations in a real emergency have access to those things during the drill and staff who support them are trained.” said Dean of Students Shaheen Mohammed.
Additionally, previous trauma can cause students to feel unsafe while during lockdown drills. “Maybe some people have been held up at gunpoint or had experiences with guns,” Villagran said.
In addition, Mohammed said, “Some have had real life experiences that may make a drill traumatizing.” For these students, a lockdown drill is not beneficial.
Even for students without previous trauma around guns, Villagran said that lockdown drills may cause general anxiety. “Imagining it, students will sit in class and be feeling trapped, or like ‘I’m on the third floor, I couldn’t leave’. So I think they do more harm than good,” she said.
Unfortunately, for most students in the U.S., lockdown drills are now as common as fire and earthquake drills. When asked about how she feels after lockdown drills, freshman Sofia Bloom said, “… we’ve done lockdown drills and fire drills, and all this since elementary school, so I’m used to it.” Fires and earthquakes are natural occurrences, while lockdowns only happen when gun violence is on the rise.
Villagran said, “I think the problem is we’re being reactive and giving this false sense of ‘if you know how to do a lockdown drill, we can protect ourselves’.”
For better or for worse, lockdown drills seem to be a practice that are here to stay.
Regardless of how it may affect various students Mohammed said, “The objective should remain that we improve our practices and get better together.”