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Thoughtful school safety drills are essential to prepare for a threat

Boys ride their bikes through the parking lot at Needham High School in this April 2017 file photo.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

We were disappointed by the lack of school and public safety officials’ perspectives and information in the Feb. 20 editorial “Active-shooter drills in classrooms do more harm than good.” With apparently little or no guidance or input from school administrators and police, the Globe asserts that school safety protocols such as ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) are wrongheaded and terrifying for children and staff. We strongly disagree. Implemented properly, and in collaboration with local public safety officials, lockdown and armed-intruder drills are an appropriate and essential component in a school community response to an emergency or a threat.

Public safety and education experts, such as the National Fire Protection Association and the American Association of School Administrators, have endorsed developmentally appropriate safety protocols and procedures that enable students and teachers in emergency situations, including an active shooter scenario. The National Association of School Psychologists and the National Association of School Resource Officers together have produced a document outlining best practices to use, so that students and staff are prepared but not traumatized by unnecessary drills that emphasize pellet guns, noise, and chaos.


In Needham, as in most Massachusetts communities, our emphasis is on preparedness and conducting school safety exercises that are focused on student safety and are age appropriate.

Regardless of protocols and procedures, we can never guarantee that schoolhouse violence or tragedies can be completely avoided. However, thoughtfully planned safety drills and ongoing dialogue, communication, and collaboration between and among school and public safety personnel will empower students, staff, and the community to take active measures to protect themselves.

Daniel Gutekanst


Needham Public Schools

John Schlittler

Chief of Police