Districts Implementation of Active Shooter Drill Policies

AuthorCassandra C. Howard,Viki P. Kelchner,Breahannah Hilaire,Laurie O. Campbell,Eric D. Laguardia
Published date01 August 2022
Date01 August 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Criminal Justice Policy Review
2022, Vol. 33(7) 667 –687
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/08874034211068448
Districts Implementation of
Active Shooter Drill Policies
Cassandra C. Howard1, Viki P. Kelchner1,
Breahannah Hilaire1, Laurie O. Campbell1,
and Eric D. Laguardia1
High-profile school shootings provoke public outcry and calls for policy responses
to gun violence in schools. However, policy makers face pressure from diverse
stakeholders with distinct agendas, and in some areas, there is little empirical research
to guide policy makers’ decisions. Active shooter drills are one such example of a
hotly debated policy response in need of further study. As a preliminary step to
filling this research gap, this mixed-methods study investigated how school districts
in Florida have implemented active shooter drills following legislation passed after the
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. We analyzed
school safety specialists’ perceptions and reports of drill procedures and their
alignment with best practices. The majority of the districts surveyed aligned with
Best Practices established by the National Association of School Psychologists and
National Association of School Resource Officers. Implications for future research
and considerations for the implementation of active shooter drills are discussed.
program evaluation, policy implications, research and policy
After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, a
familiar debate over policy responses to school-based gun violence was revived. One
focus of media coverage revealed a wide range of perspectives concerning the topic of
active shooter drills. Highly publicized incidents of realistic drills that included props
1University of Central Florida, Orlando, USA
Corresponding Author:
Laurie O. Campbell, Department of Learning Sciences and Educational Research, University of Central
Florida, 4000 University Blvd, Orlando, FL 32801, USA.
Email: locampbell@ucf.edu
1068448CJPXXX10.1177/08874034211068448Criminal Justice Policy ReviewHoward et al.
668 Criminal Justice Policy Review 33(7)
and simulations of actual shooting incidents drew support from some and outrage from
others (Asmelash, 2020; Christakis, 2019; Ebbs, 2018; Hopkins, 2019). Amid the
wider public debate on how to effectively prevent and respond to rampage shootings,
Florida passed one of the most comprehensive state legislative responses to school
shootings in history. Characterized by a broad aim to increase school and law enforce-
ment cooperation, Florida Senate Bill 7026, or the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High
School Public Safety Act (MSDHSPSA), required districts to designate a school safety
specialist position charged with promoting school safety and security (Florida K-20
Education Code, 2019). The legislation also mandated monthly active shooter drills to
be conducted as part of each district’s emergency management plan and emphasized
active shooter drill training as an important component of the professional training of
school safety specialists in part due to the systematic shortcomings that contributed to
shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSDHS). The incident at
MSDHS was the fault of the assailant. Although there is only one individual to blame,
there were several deficiencies leading up to this shooting. The MSD Commission
Report (2019) outlines some key causes leading up to the event and the basis for new
legislation in Florida schools. Some of the causes include the inadequate reporting of
mental health warning signs based on the perpetrator’s mental and behavioral health
issues and how these issues were addressed by the school system. In addition, there
was little physical security, few security measures and policies, and faulty behavioral
threat assessment measures. Furthermore, on the day of the attack, the response by law
enforcement and the school’s resource officer was lacking and flawed.
Previous legislative responses to school shootings have been criticized for adopting
approaches with little empirical support. These critiques suggest that in an effort to
quell moral outrage, policies are created that ultimately serve private security compa-
nies and broader political goals more than they protect students (Addington, 2009;
Burns & Crawford, 1999; Goode & Ben-Yehuda, 2010). Florida’s increased emphasis
on active shooter drills and parallel creation of a district-level position for school
safety specialists warrant investigation into how districts have approached active
shooter drills in response to MSDHSPSA. To add to our understanding of how policy
and leaders can effectively promote safe learning environments for students, we used
a mixed-methods design to investigate (a) how districts have implemented active
shooter drills following MSDHSPSA, (b) how those drills align with National
Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and National Association of School
Resource Officers (NASRO) practices, and (c) the perceived strengths and weaknesses
in current active shooter drill practices.
Literature Review
The term “active shooter” is a law enforcement term used to describe an individual
who is attempting to kill others in a populated area (Federal Bureau of Investigation,
2019). Because the shooter is “active,” both civilians and law enforcement may
have to interact (or avoid interaction) with the shooter, with potential to affect the
outcome. The vast majority of students and staff will likely never have to respond

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