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Should schools conduct active shooter drills?

The belief is, drills like one on the Northshore in 2018, can better prepare law enforcement, school students and staff for an active shooter scenario.

NEW ORLEANS — If you have a child in school, chances are they've taken part in an active shooter drill.  The largest teacher's union in the country is now coming out against such drills.  

A new study that includes the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.6 million workers in public education, is recommending schools stop conducting active shooter drills because they can cause more harm than preventative good.  

The belief is, drills like one on the Northshore in 2018, can better prepare law enforcement, school students and staff for an active shooter scenario.

"We need to be more prepared working not only with the school board but all the first responders here in our area," said St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith in 2018.

RELATED: Two teachers unions call for changes to school lockdown drills

But according to the new study, while 20% of the 36,000 gun deaths in the U.S. every year take place on school grounds, these drills are practically universal now. They can vary, but some drills include a fake shooter bursting into classrooms, without teachers or students knowing ahead of time.

"Sometimes these drills can be traumatizing for students as well as the faculty and staff," said Kesler Camese-Jones.

The head of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers says schools have a tough balancing act.

"On the one hand, we want our staff to be prepared, and we want our students to also be prepared. But we also want our students and staff to feel that schools are still a safe haven," said Camese-Jones.

The new study recommends that if schools decide to hold these drills, they should be announced and should not mimic an actual incident. One security expert says any drill should keep the age of the students in mind.

"If you're taking a wholistic approach to it, you want to be age-dependent. You would teach an 8th grader, something different than you would teach a 3rd grader. You want to vary that and tailor the information to the person," said Robert Allen, a professor of risk and threat assessment at Tulane University’s School of Professional Advancement.

The sad reality is many schools must prepare for the unthinkable.  The question now, how do they best do that?  

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