California bill would ban fake shootings, require advance notification during active shooter drills

Fake shootings would be banned during active shooter drills in California public schools, under a law proposed Tuesday that would also require schools to notify students, teachers and parents in advance whenever a exercise is planned.

The measure was introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Chris Ward, who says some districts have gone too far in their efforts to prepare students for possible tragedy, such as by re-creating shooting scenes too realistically.

Schools across the state have ramped up active shooter drills in recent years in response to an increase in mass shootings, but there has been little guidance on how those drills should be conducted.


Without formal guidelines, some drills were conducted with coaches playing the role of school shooters, students playing dead and fake weapons being used to fire blanks, Ward said while introducing the bill.

Last month, the principal of an elementary school outside Los Angeles was placed on leave after he pretended to shoot students and announced they were “dead” during a drill, KTLA reported . In some cases, schools also fail to inform teachers, parents and students about shooting drills, leading to confusion and panic.

Ward said such simulations could “do more harm than good.”

school shooting exercises - discussions on legislation

Democratic Assemblyman Chris Ward speaks at a news conference about legislation that would create standards for school shooting drills. The legislation would ban fake shootings and require advance notice. (AP Photo/Trân Nguyễn)

“When it comes to fire drills, we don’t fill the halls with smoke or turn up the thermostat,” he said. “We shouldn’t do the same thing to our children when it comes to active shooter drills.”

As school safety has become a multibillion-dollar industry in recent years, some groups are pushing lawmakers to eliminate shooting drills. A 2021 study by Everytown for Gun Safety and the Georgia Institute of Technology linked active shooter drills to an increase in depression, stress and other mental health issues among students.

The legislation would require the state Department of Education to provide standardized guidelines on active shooter drills. It would also ban the use of fake shots, require schools to notify parents of a shooting drill before and after and make a school-wide announcement before the drill begins.

Schools should also design age-appropriate exercises and then make mental health resources available.


“Currently, there are no standardized processes for school shooting drills, which is mind-boggling to me,” said Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gipson, who supports the bill. “This is common sense legislation.”

Ireana Marie Williams, a member of Students Demand Actions at California State University, Sacramento, said shooting drills and lockdowns are traumatic for students. Williams was kicked out of her class when her high school was closed a few years ago. She didn't know if it was an exercise or not.

“There are no words, no way for me to describe the horror of feeling like an easy target, waiting for a gunman to turn the corner and start shooting,” Williams said Tuesday. “Every lockdown, every exercise, every second spent looking for exits is a form of gun violence.”


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