All In   |  February 14, 2014

School drills that simulate school shootings

Chris Hayes talks to

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> but i have very fond childhood memories of participating in fire drills at school . there's just this exhilaration if you're a kid that comes with pretending there's a crisis and being called to action. but today, we are running another kind of drill in american schools . the kind where teachers tell kids that the light from their cell phone can make them a target.

>> that's why these children are practicing to duck and cover just as you do in your school . we all know the atomic bomb is very dangerous. since it may be used against us, we must get ready for it just as we are ready for many other dangers around us all the time.

>> for years the united states government taught schoolchildren how to protect themselves from the threat of a nuclear explosion . the method was called duck and cover . it was part of the federal civil defense administration 's response to soviet nuclear tests . of course, we tried to levin the sheer existential terror by making the drills more palatable for kids knew just what to do he ducked and covered

>> did we really think a school desk could protect a child from a nuclear attack ? it didn't matter. we as a society had to do something to protect our most vulnerable from our enemies.

>> jefferson county 911.

>> yes, i'm a teacher at columbine high school . there's a student here with a gun. he's shot out a window.

>> today the dangers we face have changed. over the past few decades, we as a nation have repeatedly watched in shock and disbelief as incidents of mass school violence have unfolded. we can even recite the names of the schools where the most horrific attacks occurred. columbine. virginia tech . sandy hook . in the 14 months since a gunman opened fire at that elementary school in newtown , connecticut, there have been at least 44 school shootings . as a society, we've had to make a choice about what our response will be. whatever political will there was to regulate some of the most lax gun laws in the world in the aftermath of new town was quickly and deftly extinguished. so this is what we're doing instead.

>> yep.

>> let me in. please.

>> what you are watching is exclusive footage from nbc news of an active shooter drill. it is being performed in the halls of troy buchanan high school in troy, missouri , a school about an hour northwest of st. louis. it's the 13th such drill the school district has staged in the past year. and the victims are students. all volunteers.

>> we heard the banging and all of that so, i mean, we knew that they were there and had to be really quiet and it was just really nerve-racking.

>> i was just thinking of places i would hide or run if in the scenario that ever happened. i couldn't think of any.

>> in the years since columbine, schools across america have tried to prepare for the worst. most adapting some form of a standard lockdown drill. some districts have gone further permitting teachers to carry firearms, training students in self-defense, and thanks to a new law, beginning this year, all school staff members in missouri will be legally required to participate in active shooter response training. and schools all across the country, from texas to indiana, to oregon, have staged the kind of drill you are seeing here.

>> and then i ran past the office and i saw more people dead, like, kids i see in choir every day. and it was starting to get to me and then i, like, saw the gupman gunman, like, right in front of me. i stopped and meant to run, but i was kind of frozen in my spot and he shot me and i died. so --

>> the most comprehensive response to school shootings hasn't been the passage of stricter gun laws . it hasn't been an in-depth examination of our gun culture . it has been to send adults playing the role of homicidal gunmen into schools. it has been to teach kids the best way to shield their bodies from the bullets.

>> i start to think, what if this would happen? i start to think, like, i'm not going to try to save my best friend . i'm going to try to save myself.

>> this is duck and cover for a new generation. but, of course, our old cold ware adversaries are gone. the enemy now is within. joining me now is nbcnews.com reporter who went to missouri , her report on that school shooting drill, nona willis aronowitz. that was a fantastic bit of reporting.

>> thanks for having me.

>> okay. where to start? i'm actually sort of, like, upset by just rewatching that footage. was it upsetting to see in person?

>> oh, yeah. it was very intense. i had never heard gunshots before. at one point, somebody shot a gun, like, a foot away from me and i instinctively ducked down. and the 14-year-old kid was, you know, better off than me and said, are you okay? are you okay? i was pretty disturbed by it. some kids were totally fine. some kids started crying.

>> so, why this law? missouri 's passed this law that all the schools have to run training. what's the genesis of this, what's the idea here?

>> i think it's not for the kids. it's for teachers and laurmw enforcement. the kids are basically props. not all the active shooter laws are going to be like that necessarily. they don't have to use the fake blood, don't have to use blanks. it could be something very elementary. they decided to ramp it up after they did a more stilted, you know, low-key drill that they didn't feel was doing anything. so it's really for law enforcement to sort of come up with strategies to better deal with this if this should happen.

>> how prevalent are active shooter drills around the country? this isn't just happening in missouri . these are happening everywhere.

>> yeah. there are a handful of -- i mean, people do it on their own volition. there are a handful of states that make it law. people are passing other laws that say that teachers can carry concealed weapons. people are really ramping up the security. but it's not really helping anything.

>> yeah. is there any evidence to suggest -- i mean, i remember when wayne lapierre came out after sandy hook and gave that infamous press conference where he talked about training teachers to fight back.

>> right.

>> he was widely mocked. yet here we are. and it seems like basically what we've decided is the policy response to what happened in newtown is going to be schools figuring out what's the best way to deal with the inevitability essentially of someone barging flu yo through your door with a gun?

>> yeah, saluabsolutely. i noticed the kids weren't that traumatized. psychologists told me it's difficult to traumatize a kid unless they have a pre-existing condition. but what was happening was i heard people, these kids using this verbal tick of when this happens, or when the gun shooter comes, rather than if. when in reality it's a 1 in 2.5 million chance this will ever --

>> that's the other part of this. one level, we pay attention to events like sandy hook or newtown because they're so horrific. they're so horrific. they're so unspeakably evil. the odds that your child if you're watching this now, if you have a little one you love, you're sending to school , odds this is going to be their fate are vanishingly, vanishingly thin. it seems almost perverse this is what we're going to do, we're going to send this message of normalization. it also seems like it's going to precipitate people to expect gun violence as a normal part of american life .

>> right. i think a lot of these kids don't totally feel safe in schools when in reality school is still a pretty safe place to be. it's one of the safest place to be. i think it's more common to, you know, have your parent hit you or even kill you in your house than actually be in school and die of a violent death.

>> did you talk to the teachers, i mean, how do the staff that is now mandated to do this, how do they interpret all this?

>> they seem to take it harder than the students. a lot of students were super resilient, making jokes. even the kid who was breaking down and crying later thought it was totally worth it. what i saw were some teachers being really disturbed. they had no idea what was coming either. this was a first for them. some of them were pretty shaken up.

>> nona of nbcnews.com. great piece up on nbcnews.com. we're showing it there. definitely should check that out as well. thank you so much.

>>> more on what the focus on shooting drills and lockdowns is doing to kids across the country, next. m fiber