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Most Americans say schools should do active shooter drills, but disagree on approach


An overwhelming majority of Americans say children should have active shooter drills in schools, but a new NPR Ipsos poll finds that how to conduct those drills and what safety measures schools should invest in is divisive. NPR's Sequoia Carrillo reports.

SEQUOIA CARRILLO, BYLINE: Both parents and the general public at large agree gun violence is one of the top concerns around K-12 education. But our NPR Ipsos poll also finds that depending on who you ask, you'll get different answers on how to approach the problem.

MALLORY NEWALL: You see this really deep partisan divide that has sort of crystallized here...

CARRILLO: That's Mallory Newall, vice president at Ipsos.

NEWALL: ...On the type of investment and the type of priority that we should have when it comes to school safety.

CARRILLO: The poll looked at three different measures to keep children safe in schools - social and emotional measures, security measures and training measures. People in the poll who identified as Democrats are more inclined than Republicans to support investing in social and emotional measures like guidance counselors, anti-bullying campaigns and increased mental health education over expanded security measures. And the difference is big - 65% to 38%. Republicans strongly favored expanded security measures like metal detectors, bulletproof glass or clear backpacks over social and emotional measures.

NEWALL: But it goes beyond that. There's actually a little bit of a partisan difference when it comes to the type of active shooter drill that they support in schools.

CARRILLO: And an overwhelming majority of Americans, 88%, support basic lockdown procedures. But differences start to come up when it comes to how to conduct these drills. In some schools, administrators go for a very realistic simulation. Amy Klinger, founder and director of programs for the nonprofit Educator's School Safety Network, is opposed to such measures.

AMY KLINGER: The time that you're spending trying to come up with, how can we replicate gunfire, and how can we make blood, and how can we have victims, and how can we do all of these things, really have no training value for educators.

CARRILLO: In our NPR Ipsos poll, parents agreed. While support starts high for lockdowns in general, it drops as the options become more graphic. For instance, only about 1 in 3 Americans and parents say that they support the use of the sound of a gun or gunshots during an active shooter drill in schools.

KLINGER: Rather than coming up with a comprehensive solution, we have said, if we only had more counselors, we would have no more shootings. If we only had no more guns, we'd have no more shootings. If we only had everybody was armed in school - none of those things are correct.

CARRILLO: She says that any one of these solutions by itself is not enough. I talked to one parent in Southern California, Carla Nardoni. She's got two kids, one in middle school and one in the 10th grade. She says even though her children attend school in the same city she did, their experiences around gun violence have been vastly different.

CARLA NARDONI: I went to school in LA in the early '90s, but they did have metal detectors, and they did search our bags for weapons.

CARRILLO: But the only lockdown she ever had was not a drill. It was the LA riots in 1992. She remembers being overwhelmed and getting rounded up into her school's auditorium for safety. Alternatively, her kids have had lockdown drills every year since they were in kindergarten. And it's a different story.

NARDONI: Honestly, in a way, they're kind of apathetic about it. They care, and they think it's awful, and they don't understand why it's this way, but it's just so normal. Like, they don't get really worked up about it.

CARRILLO: Like a lot of parents, Nardoni says that even though lockdowns and drills are a new phenomenon, if it keeps their kids safe, that's what matters.

NARDONI: Any parent can go on and on and on about school shootings and having to send their kids to school. I mean, I never, ever let my children leave the house without saying, love you, ever, you know? And that's the reason why.

CARRILLO: Sequoia Carrillo, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Sequoia Carrillo is an assistant editor for NPR's Education Team. Along with writing, producing, and reporting for the team, she manages the Student Podcast Challenge.