Some worry active shooter drills may traumatize children

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- As school shootings become an unfortunate reality, more and more schools are conducting active shooter drills. But some experts are concerned that the drills are doing more harm than good.

Winthrop University professor Melissa Reeves was featured on NPR this week, ironically just days before Thursday's deadly shooting at a high school in Los Angeles.

Winthrop spoke with ABC11 about her concerns, she worries the simulated active shooter drills that are being carried out trigger the trauma they're designed to prevent.

"We don't know the trauma history of some of these students and staff members. So imposing a highly sensorial experience could definitely trigger some past traumas. Even some who don't have a trauma history could have a strong emotional or physiological reaction and still have traumatic impact," Reeves explained.

Other researchers, including Michael Dorn; Executive Director of Safe Haven International, a non-profit dedicated to campus safety, found that faculty and staff who have completed popular active shooter training programs often perform worse in simulations than those with no training.

In Cumberland County, most entities from law enforcement, schools and even hospitals perform some sort of active shooter drills in hopes that repetition of safety measures becomes muscle memory.

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office says they train constantly in a school-like environment but for safety and security reasons they never do so in the presence of students.

"If you're using your current students that are in the schools while you do your active shooter training, they're going to be privy to the type of formations you're using, how you're clearing the building," said Lt. Sean Swain.

Training methods aside, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office urges everyone to know what to do in the event of an active shooter emergency.

"You're always going to hear someone in law enforcement say it's not a matter of if it's a matter of when," said Swain.
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