Active shooter exercises frighten children and may not protect them. Some schools are taking a new approach.

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By Elizabeth Chuck

The 4-year-old son of Heidi Lee Pottinger was at a football game last fall with his father when, after a touchdown, celebratory fireworks exploded. Panicked, the little boy turned to his father.

"Active shooter!" He cried with tears in his eyes.

Pottinger's son is one of the millions of American schoolchildren who participated in shooting and lockdown exercises. The exercises, inherited from the unleashed Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, are intended to prepare teachers and students for the rare threat that an armed man will open fire in their school.

Pottinger's son started doing the exercises in his private nursery, whereas he was only three years old. During the exercises, the young boy from Tuscon, Arizona – whom Pottinger had asked NBC News not to name to protect his privacy – squatted gently with classmates and teachers behind the furniture, repeating what to do if a real shooter burst.

The exercises have deeply affected him. At home, he bit his fingernails and pretended to be locked while he was playing. Eventually he refused to go anywhere alone, even to his room or bathroom at home.

"It would say," The confinement is going to catch me, "said Pottinger, a researcher in maternal and child health at the College of Public Health at the University of Arizona. really caught off guard … It's his childhood and it should be careless, and it is not.

Active shooter drills became more common, with the massacre of schools with firearms making headlines. The exercises give teachers and students a plan to follow in an emergency, which can save lives. According to the US Nonprofit Education Commission, forty-two states have laws requiring emergency drills or safety in schools, many of which are designed to protect themselves from active shooters. .

However, there is virtually no research on the effectiveness of exercises, and although there are some federal recommendations, there is no blueprint for schools to follow in how to achieve them. their frequency and how to explain them to students of different ages.

Over the last two decades, the exercises have grown, with some schools even using fake blood and blank cartridges against students. An exercise at an Indiana school last month sparked outrage when teachers were shot at the pellet, injuring them.

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