11/05/2014 10:38 am ET Updated Nov 05, 2014

Teacher Op-Ed Reignites Debate On School Lockdown Drills

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A pre-K teacher's Washington Post op-ed arguing against school lockdown drills has reignited debate over the practice in the wake of a Washington state high school shooting.

In her piece published on Oct. 28, Arlington, Virginia, teacher Launa Hall described cowering in a closet with her class of 4- and 5-year-olds in a lockdown drill that lasted longer than expected. The practice lockdowns produce fear and anxiety in both students and teachers, she wrote.

"Instead of controlling guns and inconveniencing those who would use them, we are rounding up and silencing a generation of schoolchildren, and terrifying those who care for them. We are giving away precious time to teach and learn while we cower in fear," Hall wrote in her piece, called "Rehearsing for death: A pre-K teacher on the trouble with lockdown drills."

The op-ed was published in the wake of an Oct. 24 shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Washington. Four students died from the attack, including Shaylee Chuckulnaskit, a 14-year-old who died a week after being wounded in the shooting. Zoe Galasso and Gia Soriano, both 14, were also killed, and the shooter, Jaylen Fryberg, 15, died of a self-inflicted wound.

The school held lockdown drills once or twice a year, a Marysville-Pilchuck teacher told KIRO TV. The teacher said that on the day of the shooting, he stayed in his classroom for nearly three hours. The students remained calm, he told KIRO, until the SWAT team arrived.

Hall's article is part of an ongoing debate on lockdown drills, with some arguing that the fear and trauma the preparedness strategies can stir in children may outweigh the potential security the drills offer in the case of an active shooter.

"I wanted to hold up a mirror and say, 'Look what we’ve come to that we’re resorting to this,'" Hall told The Huffington Post. She said that she wrote the article to argue that rather than train students to prepare for shooters, we should focus on the "sensible regulation of firearms."

As of Wednesday morning, there were over 600 comments on Hall's piece. She told HuffPost that most of the reactions have been positive, with people thanking her for speaking out from a teacher's perspective about the lockdown practice.

"There is room for teachers as a body to say, 'We’re not OK with our limited instruction time being taken for this purpose,'" Hall said.

Over 20 states require lockdowns or similar types of drills, National School Safety and Security Services President Kenneth Trump told The New York Times in a recent interview.

Hall was a U.S. Air Force officer for five years, and she is no stranger to guns, she said. She has a "deep respect for the danger they pose," and in military training was taught extreme responsibility for weapons.

"I don't want to remove Second Amendment rights, but I want to strike a balance between the rights of the individual citizens and our duty to each other," Hall said. Owners should take more responsibility for weapons and ammunition, she added, taking care to lock them up and keep track of them.

While Hall's article is about leading a lockdown drill for pre-K, she is teaching third-graders this year. At a lockdown drill a few weeks ago, Hall said she noticed that the older children had more questions and needed more reassurance than the 4- and 5-year-olds.

"They have enough world knowledge now to look at me and say, ‘We’re just pretending, right?'" she said.

Hall added that her daughter, who is in middle school, rushes when she uses the restroom so that she is not locked out of a classroom in case of a lockdown.

"This is a part of her life, and it is not unusual," Hall said. "I'm not OK with that."

Even as school shootings continue to occur, Hall said she is hopeful for more responsible regulation and ownership of guns.

"I'm in the business of being hopeful, because I teach the very young," Hall said. "They are hopeful, and their future is very bright."



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