WA law looks to address the trauma of 'active shooter' drills

WA law looks to address the trauma of ‘active shooter’ drills

Santos said that for all that Washington state has done to try to fortify schools and limit guns in certain public spaces, the next major moves on safety need to come at a federal level, though the populace has become polarized on the issue.

“There is an increasing divide in Americans’ ability to have a common ground around policy with respect to guns and the place of guns in society,” she said.

For Olympia High School freshman Sarah Walz, the possibility of a shooting like the one that recently took the lives of 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, has always been part of their school experience.

Walz, 14, said that in kindergarten their school went into lockdown because a man outside the school was carrying what turned out to be an umbrella.

“I remember being in a dark classroom, on the floor, not knowing what would happen,” Walz said. “That was a powerful moment to me, it was a disheartening thing.” 

Walz joined hundreds of  demonstrators at the recent March for Our Lives in Olympia, which came together after an 18-year-old entered Robb Elementary School in Texas and killed third and fourth graders and two teachers in May.

At the march, first established in 2018 after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, demonstrators called for added gun control as a way to increase safety at schools and other public places.

Walz’s classmate, Nell McGuian, 15, who also attended the march, said many students felt a sense of shock and sadness after the Uvalde shooting because the shooter attacked an elementary school.

“It’s having students go to grownups and say … ‘We are here to tell people that we don’t want to get shot,’ ” McGuian said.

McKaughan, the Tumwater teacher, said that the federal government should examine the insurance and marketing of guns as a possible means of increasing safety. He also attended this year’s March for Our Lives.

“I’m not against guns, I just think they need to be well-regulated according to the Constitution,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been living in this ‘violent world of education’ my whole career. I’ve just come to expect it and I don’t want it to be that way.”

Walz and McGuian, the Olympia ninth graders, said schools should also do more to address mental health issues and help all students feel seen as a way to improve school safety. They both said the lockdown drills are ingrained in their school experiences.

“I think drills definitely make you think of the different possibilities that arise,” Walz said. 

“Along that same line, it helps you prepare. But you shouldn’t have to,” McGuian said.