Mass Shootings

Ohio Police Fired Blanks During School Shooter Drill, Needlessly Terrifying Students

Increasingly theatrical and frightening active shooter drills are surprisingly common, even though school shootings are not.


Police officers outside of Dayton, Ohio, unsheathed their weapons and fired blanks in Franklin High School on Tuesday as part of a misguided effort to prepare students for a possible active shooter.

The planned drill unnecessarily ratcheted up the intensity of school lockdown procedures, which routinely require students and teachers to barricade themselves in their classrooms. That the exercise was potentially traumatizing was not lost on the officials who planned it, as they came equipped with "Social-Emotional Activities," as well as counselors who could talk with any disturbed teens.

"There was a concern and it did cause some stress" among parents and students, Lt. Gerry Massey tells the Cincinnati Enquirer. Senior Samantha Earnhart, one such terrified student, said that she "became very emotional" and "started to cry" upon hearing the gunfire.

And for what? Regardless of the feverish rhetoric around school shootings, the phenomenon remains exceedingly rare.

Less rare, however, are these increasingly extreme active shooter drills.

In August, police fired off blanks at a high school in Long Island, New York, in response to a pretend shooter who banged on classroom doors while students and teachers hid. Elementary school teachers in Indiana were recently shot execution-style with plastic pellets, causing many of them to bruise, and a Florida "Code Red" exercise last year was marketed to students as the real deal. "This is not a drill," a school administrator announced over the intercom, sending some students into an emotional frenzy as they texted their parents goodbye.

"I felt more traumatized than trained," Elizabeth Yanelli, a teacher in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, told Education Week after undergoing an active shooter drill at her school. Yanelli says teachers were told to shoot Airsoft guns in the cafeteria to sharpen their skills in case they might need to confront a gunman one day. Worse still, the teachers were told to practice on each other. "We had colleagues shooting colleagues, we had people getting hit with [plastic] pellets. … People were screaming, trying to run. People were tripping over each other. It was just horrendous."

Whether or not such exercises actually prepare people for active shooters remains to be seen, says James Alan Fox, the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern University. But they almost certainly stoke paranoia around an already-fraught issue.

"From 2013 to 2018, 40 students were fatally shot by an assailant in school, averaging 6.7 a year out of 55 million schoolchildren," Fox tells Reason. That includes the Parkland and Santa Fe shootings, which took 17 and 10 lives, respectively. He contrasts that with the student fatalities that occur while children commute to school—bicycle and bus crashes, for instance—which average about 30 a year.

The overblown approach to shooter drills might actively make schools less safe. Fox notes that some students find the exercises "extremely upsetting, traumatizing, and fear-provoking," while others still think they're "not that big of a deal." But then there's another group of students, he says, who find it all-too-thrilling, increasing "the likelihood that they'll perpetuate" something similar. (While the jury is still out on that, some preliminary data is worrying.)

It's likely impossible to pinpoint a hard number on how many lives, if any, have been saved by active shooter exercises. Thus far, the benefit of these drills does not appear to exceed the cost.

At Franklin High School, for example, teachers had the option to tell students which direction the bullets were coming from and then confer with their students about the best plan of action. A teacher seized with fear in real-time might not have the ability to determine where shots were coming from, or have time to chat with students about evacuation versus a barricade.

Some version of active shooter preparation likely has a place in the school curriculum. Even Fox says he can understand teachers talking to students about proper protocol. But the wild attempts to subject kids to an authentically frightening experience provides no additional benefit and borders on the absurd. During a tornado drill, should school staff employ high-powered fans to shake the windows and drive genuine terror into their pupils? Most would certainly say no, as it would it actively inflict trauma on young kids⁠—just as these shooter drills are now designed to do.

"Schools are safe," says Fox. "For some kids, it's the safest place they can be." Let's keep it that way.

NEXT: Naloxone Can Prevent Opioid Overdose Deaths. Why Isn't the FDA Allowing Over-the-Counter Sales?

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  1. But how else are they going to indoctrinate the young in the kind and beneficent ways of the socialist order? A little terror is good for convincing the little tykes to instantly obey every order from their masters.

    1. Even the Chinese haven’t gotten to this stage yet of climatizing the sheep to violent actions by the state.

      1. I’m pretty sure that happened already, something about a cultural revolution…

        1. Were they carrying pictures of Chairman Mao?

          1. They ain’t gonna make it with anyone, anyhow!

          2. No, but I carry pictures of Chairkitty Meow…

    2. “But how else are they going to indoctrinate the young in the kind and beneficent ways of the socialist order?”

      Have them wait all day in line for their lunch?

      1. Make schools look even more like prisons?

    3. Longtobefree, How else will the police be able to teach the students how to act and react IF a school shooter dose strike? Without the noise of gun shots during training when these students are in the condition the loud noise will frighten them even further and will cause them to for get what they are to do.
      What society is doing to the younger citizens are nothing but tragic. When I was a student many years ago we had students killed (in traffic accidents) and no social scientist was called in to help them work through any psychological problems and I can say that those students were better adjusted that the young of today.

      1. School shootings are rare, which is half of why they are news (the other half being the dying Anti-Gun agenda). Want to make them even rarer? Do away with the ‘No Self Defense” zones around schools, and widely publicize the miserable end mass shooters come to. A mass shooter who has been gunned to doll-rags doesn’t look glamorous. And a shooter taken into custody with multiple gunshot wounds is likely to be moaning piteously, if not screaming. Broadcast that.

      2. By that logic, they shouldn’t be using blanks… They should have them crawl to the other side of the athletic fields while firing live rounds over their heads. Without the noise of hot lead screaming over their heads and the crack of individual rounds surpassing the speed of sound, when these students are in the condition those noises will frighten them even further and will cause them to for get what they are to do.

    4. Yeah, best to do nothing and let them be mowed down by a psycho like you

      1. I like those odds!

  2. So now all the Government-Almighty-subsidized therapists will not only be able to endlessly therapyeutrasize and therapukeasize us, on taxpayer dollars and insurance dollars, to magic-wand-wave away, PTSD caused by criminals and by military service and by accidents, they will be able to ADD to it, “therapy” needed to deal with PTSD caused by the cops!!! Brilliant!!! Bravo for Government Almighty!

  3. So when will cops have shooting drills in your neighborhood. why not mass shootings are app to happen anywhere so have them everywhere the local park on a Sunday, in the theater at a baseball game just any old street any day of the week it makes just as much sense as doing it in a school

    1. So when will cops have shooting drills in your neighborhood.

      They already do, buddy.

      Last year my neighbor 3 doors down threatened his girlfriend with a gun. A SWAT team locked down the neighborhood for 5 hours while they blared on their megaphone and crawled around in our back yards with sniper rifles. Unfortunately, he shot himself probably before the police even arrived.

      At any point they could have walked in the house, the door wasn’t even locked. When they did go in, however, they launched multiple canisters of tear gas through the windows and broke the door. There was a dog too, but I still don’t understand how they send the dog in after the gas. What I learned from the drill was that they will tell you to get back inside your house and that tear gas ruins carpets and furniture in addition to all the food not in airtight containers.

      Hey, the police all went home safe, so all is well.

    2. mass shootings are apt to happen anywhere
      Actually, the vast majority of them happen in “gun-free zones,” where the 18,000,000 people licensed to carry are disarmed.

      Holding a realistic “mass shooting drill” where folks aren’t disarmed would be a really bad idea.

      1. Or would it?

  4. I still remember the civil defense warnings and drills in case of nuclear attack. There was a poster that was popular then.











    Really there is no need to frighten the kids this way. A drill is fine but some of these are way over the top.

    1. Really there is no need to frighten the kids this way.

      There is if you want to terrify them into supporting an omnipotent state.

  5. But they almost certainly stoke paranoia around an already-fraught issue.

    Feature, not bug.

  6. Good thing none of the students started beating each other to death and trampling each other when they heard gunshots. Turns out the youth of America are pretty stoic after all.

    Just looking for silver linings, I suppose.

  7. We had “duck and cover” in the 50s and 60s, now we’ve got “hide and cower”.

    1. We had tornado drills in Oklahoma in the 70s. At least it’s a more likely event than a mass shooting.

  8. “Ohio Police Fired Blanks During School Shooter Drill, Needlessly Terrifying Students”

    As long as these drills are seen a good or necessary, there is something to be said for how real they seem.

    What do you want the guns to fire ? Red flags ?

    1. Stop coddling these kids. Use real bullets.

  9. Back in my day, they had driver ed films to terrorize students. What is wrong with these people?

    1. Yes! I remember, it was called “Red Pavement” or “Red Roads”. It was horrendous.

  10. Well…
    If they’re going to insist on having these things, might as well go all out.
    I’m just disappointed blood-packs haven’t been utilized to really Tarantino it up.

  11. used to have a “florida” tag long before the “florida man” meme just because Florida used to be the biggest source of ridiculous news. Ohio is trying to unseat them. California surpassed them ages ago. Texas is always an honorable mention.

  12. If you fire blanks (and I don’t know they’re blanks) at my house you’ll get a response from me.

  13. 40 students were fatally shot by an assailant in school, averaging 6.7 a year out of 55 million schoolchildren…”

    Meanwhile, there are an average of 6 deaths and over 3800 injuries of students on school buses each year with an average of 5 dead and 1000 injured drivers.

    FFS, school buses don’t even have seat belts because it would be impossible to enforce wearing them despite the fact that it would without question increase the safety of the kids. Has anyone ever been involved in or even heard of a school bus crash drill? WTF are the kids supposed to do when the driver is dead?

    Attention in the media does not equate to danger. As with the bomb drills of yesteryear (which were fortunately no longer happening in the 70s), this is pure propagandist bullshit to scare people into to coughing up more taxes for protection that no one can provide.

    Parents could lose custody of their kids for infliction of the continuous psychological trauma that the public education system is subjecting them to with the explicit approval of legislators, officials at the federal, state and local level and even their teachers.

    1. Interesting data from that same website:

      An average of 188 people per year are killed in crashes with emergency vehicles (excluding deaths of responders and their passengers). 55 million students is about 1/6 of the population so if those deaths are proportionate to the overall population 31 of those would be students.

      More specific data would be need to be conclusive, but it would seem that it is actually much more likely that a student will be killed in a vehicle accident with a first responder than by a shooter at their school.

      What is the drill for that?

      1. “What is the drill for that?”

        Call an Uber instead of an ambulance.

  14. Well, at least the cops were firing blanks so there was no danger of anybody getting hurt. Well, there are a couple of actors that might disagree with you about whether or not blanks are actually dangerous, but they’re dead from mishandling guns loaded with blanks so they can’t say anything. Cops are trained weapons experts so you can totally trust them to not mishandle a weapon.

    1. Brandon Lee left us too soon…

    2. I wouldn’t trust them not to use live rounds by mistake.

      1. I would love to watch a demonstration while the principle yells “POW POW POW” over the loud speaker.

    3. the cops were firing blanks so there was no danger of anybody getting hurt.

      Just a matter of time before someone has a stroke or heart attack during this crap. Oh, well, “if it helps save just one life ….”

  15. Everybody involved in the planning, presentation, approval, and execution should be fires, charged with child abuse, and count their lucky stars that some random visitor, teacher, janitor, etc., didn’t kill them with a blunt object or CC.

    1. I mean, seriously, how many people and layers of bueracracy must this plan have gone through? And they had counseling ready? And not one principle, board member, cop, counselor, chief of police, etc., etc., etc., not one person said “this is a horrible idea, and if you continue, I will warn everybody, including the media and the PTA, beforehand”?

      1. Imagine the response if I tried to do this at home. CPS would run over 8 seniors at the pedestrian crossing causeb they couldn’t take my kids away fast enough.

  16. Pussies. Live fire or don’t bother.

    1. Our High School had cornfields on two sides and pastures on the other two. Heavily wooded portions throughout. People routinely hunted in the woods. Live fire without warning. No tears or psychological trauma.

      Apparently even the mousiest, pants-shitting, drama queens at my High School were battle-hardened studs by today’s standards.

  17. It’s emotional abuse pure and simple. The fact that school administrators don’t understand that is frightening.

    I say that as a person who had to deal with those nuclear bomb drills as a child. Those things and the movies that went with them scared the crap out of us. The drills didn’t have us do anything that would be effective- we were going to die anyway. And they were sure to tell us that our city would definitely be in the first wave since we were a steel town. Why tell a bunch of kids they’re going to die any minute unless you get off on scaring little kids.

    1. I dunno we had fire, tornado, nuclear, don’t remember being scared. Mostly they were a break from your lessons. Fire was kinda fun. Grab the hand of your partner and march outside. Sometimes it was that girl you had been looking at.

      When I was an army brat in early 70s should have been scared but wasn’t. Just did not understand at nine or ten. The jets would fly supersonic over our base in Germany. They would rattle the windows and dishes. My mom would get upset.

      All I knew was the army took great care of us kids. We had everything, a school, movie theater, playground, ball field, library, PX with comic books and 3cent popsicles, doctors, tree fort the dads built, everything. No TV so I read a lot of books.

      If the war had happened we would have probably have been dead pretty quick.

      Two things that scared me. We went to Dachau and the Berlin Wall. That was very vivid for me. I had a Kodak camera and took pictures. Remember looking at them over and over trying to understand what I had seen.

      All these years later still trying to understand.

      1. I too was an Army brat living in Germany in the late 60’s, early 70’s. I was young at the time, only going to kindergarten and 1st grade before getting back to the states. During that time the Baader–Meinhof Gang or Red Army Faction was active and we had bomb threats at school several times a year, not drills mind you, threats. We would get up and walk outside in an orderly manner and stand around while MPs with bomb sniffing dogs cleared the building. As a kid it was looked upon as merely a break from studies, I’m sure the adults found it far more stressful yet shielded us from the reality of the situation, and I am thankful for that. On 11 May 1972, my dad lost his good friend and former commanding officer, Lt. Col. Paul A. Bloomquist, to a bomb set by the Baader–Meinhof Gang.

        1. Prior to leaving Germany, we took a trip to Berlin and I looked over the wall. I saw what socialism has to offer and in my young mind knew it to be a lie then, and still a lie today.

          Somehow my older brother and sister both are die-hard socialists, and yet they stood upon the same wall I did. I guess having a population controlled, spied on, and shot if attempting to escape appeals to them. For my life I cannot understand it, and it makes me sad.

          1. Do you mind if I ask where you were? We were in Landschtul and Neubrucke. I know the latter no longer exists.

          2. We went on a tour I remember. They had a museum showing the escape attempts and about the people who died. They told about the mines and all that. Then we were allowed to cross over in a bus though checkpoint Charlie. You were not allowed out of the bus.

            You probably remember what W Berlin was like. It was almost a Disneyland. You went over and all of the color was drained out. There were few people on the streets. No shops and cafes.
            I remember when we got to the checkpoint on the way out the E German guards with machine guns and dogs going through the bus and checking underneath with mirrors.

            Needless to say I am not a big fan of walls or communists.

            1. Dad was stationed in Frankfurt, but I don’t know where he worked from as I was but a little kid at the time.

              Berlin, for me, was a very odd experience. All the adults were talking about it and I was curious why all the hubbub. The train through East Germany was odd, looking out over the countryside in the dark you could not make out anything, even going through stations you didn’t realize you were in a town until you’re in the middle of it. Once in Berlin I could not figure out why all the excitement, it was a normal city, normal traffic, normal shops, normal people. It was a city like many other big cities I had visited, and it wasn’t until we climbed the platform and looked to the other half of the city that I finally had the “holy shit” moment – or whatever is equivalent for a first grader. No man’s land with walls, barbed wire, hedge hogs, machine gun nests, armed guards, and to be told that the other half of the city over there blew my mind. It was drab, run down, depressing and cold feeling – even on a sunny day. It had a heaviness to it that I’ve never experienced since and hope to never again. We went to the zoo, checkpoint Charlie museum, bus tours, but I don’t remember much beyond the oppressive feeling of looking at a city in chains. My dad was an Army officer and he couldn’t tour the East and my mom wasn’t about to go it alone with kids so that didn’t happen.

              I don’t travel much for work, but I did had a business trip to Germany in 1999. I rode the ICE train from Hannover to Berlin and then took a cab to the Brandenburg Gate. I walked through the gate on a drab and misty day and it felt more vivid, free and exciting then that sunny day in 1972. My coworker and I spent the rest of the day walking around the former East Berlin, and while shades of its past still lingered, I mostly saw a normal city, normal traffic, normal shops, and normal people. It was good.

    2. Just to add as I said before these incidents we are hearing about deliberately frightening kids go too far. There is no reason to do that. You are not training marines here.

      1. You are not training marines here.

        That’s where you’re wrong – training “good little soldiers” is exactly what they’re doing.

        Just yesterday there was a thing on the news where one of the local school boards was proposing a new Pre-K program because their own surveys had shown that over 60% of their kindergarteners were showing up unprepared for school. Which I thought was the whole point of kindergarten, to prepare kids for the regimentation of school. But no, they want kids to be regimented at an even younger age. You get them young enough where they’ve never known anything else and the collectivism seems natural. You’re not an individual, you’re part of a group, everybody does the same thing at the same time on a regular schedule and you sit there and do as you’re told, no thinking or doing for yourself allowed. It’s how soldiers are trained. It’s not a coincidence that this is also how prisoners are handled and how cattle are handled.

        1. It’s worse than that. We’re actually training 18th century British redcoats. Our entire model of schooling is predicated on the notion that the most effective way to run an empire on which the sun never sets in an era with no high-speed, global communications is to basically train up people to be replaceable, expendable versions of one another. That way, if you have a commander in a far flung region you don’t have to micromanage him because you know what his every action will be because you programmed him to be a certain way. If he manages to catch a round from one of those godless heathens in A Burmese adventure, well, then replace him with another chap who will give them the Queen’s comeuppance and a jolly good what for, hey?

      2. Just to add as I said before these incidents we are hearing about deliberately frightening kids go too far. There is no reason to do that. You are not training marines here.

        There’s a mishmash of stories here. Distinctly saying “This is not a drill.” should be punishable under the law. If someone spontaneously grabs a knife or other weapon and defends themselves appropriately in such a situation, you’ve effectively caused the harm. I agree that firing blanks around kindergartners, especially unwittingly, isn’t useful and is just terrorizing them.

        High School kids though, even freshmen, ought to be able to handle blanks being fired during a lock down drill and at least some should be able to distinguish gun fire from lockers slamming or books falling. Teens and near adults shouldn’t fall to pieces and suffer psychological trauma just because of loud noises with or without warning.

        Further, guns firing blanks kill even fewer people than guns with live rounds. I’m not saying we should win people over to the 2A by firing blanks at schoolkids but acting like people traumatized by blanks are normal, OK, understandable, or deserving of empathy is normalizing the animus of hoplophobia.

  18. Perhaps I’m too cynical and overly suspicious, but within a coupe of years after 9-11, I got the distinct feeling that government and the media were deliberately hyping up the terrorist threat, presumably to get people to willingly give up some rights, such as privacy and protections against illegal search and seizure.

    Now I feel like this mass shooting stuff is being hyped to the heavens in order to curtail or perhaps even repeal 2A, and to get the majority to clamour for it instead of complaining.

    You have to look at probability. We all have a far greater chance of falling down stairs than being killed by a terrorist or a spree killer. Yes where is all the propaganda against stairways, calls to do something, and demands for elevator subsidies?

  19. As if none of these kids ever played video games. None of them are traumatized.

    1. As if none of these kids ever played video games. None of them are traumatized.

      Not all of them do. Some are traumatized by biology lessons and correct pronoun usage. I bet, as usual per Reason, we’re getting half the story here.

      Our school did a similar active shooter drill without blanks. It was the day after they conducted the fire drill and the tornado drill. All grade school kids, no one cried. Including kindergartners, ADHD kids, kids with noise sensitivity issues, etc.

      I agree blanks are a bit over the top but tears, from *high school kids* over the fact that nobody was injured during a drill is over the top too. Seems like an easy way to weed out the kids who’ll need safe spaces in the next couple years.

  20. It’s likely impossible to pinpoint a hard number on how many lives, if any, have been saved by active shooter exercises. Thus far, the benefit of these drills does not appear to exceed the cost.


    “We can’t tell you how many lives it’s saved because no one knows and we don’t tell you how much it actually costs one way or the other, but here at Reason (*drink*), we can report that the costs definitively exceed the benefits. Trust us.”

    I mean just… WTHF?

    1. “Some people cried. Some people got bruised. Some people didn’t feel trained. The drills may’ve saved some lives, or not, we don’t know. Likely not. But likely-not-lives are less valuable than misguided tears and voluntary bruising, that’s for sure.”

  21. Pfft. Blanks.

    Wake me up when they start the live fire drills.


  22. Cry me a river. it was an active shooter drill. So why not use blanks?

    1. Because it’s a school, not a f%@&ng military op. What if one of the kids was so scared they jumped out a second floor window trying to get away? What if they texted their parents who then came flying across town to the school with a gun to try to save their kid? What if yet another incompetent public servant discharged live rounds and killed somebody, again?

  23. What would the repercussions be if a student in one of these hyper-realistic drills either freaked out and decided to commit suicide rather than face a supposed active shooter, or seriously damaged school property trying to escape? Or even if they decided to run and then ran out into traffic?
    If there was an active shooter in my building, I would probably lock myself in my office or a bathroom and then either kick through a wall or go up through the ceiling. If you truly think it’s life-or-death there should be no repercussions for trying to save yourself no matter what you damage… but somehow I don’t think that would be the case.

    1. They must not get the part about school shooters being students at the school.

  24. “In all countries, in all centuries, the primary reason for government to set up schools is to undermine the politically weak by convincing their children that the leaders are good and their policies are wise.” ~ Marshall Fritz
    “And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps.” ~ H.L. Mencken
    “Governments have ever been known to hold a high hand over the education of the people. They know, better than anyone else, that their power is based almost entirely on the school. Hence, they monopolize it more and more.” ~ Francisco Ferrer
    “Wherever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been discovered that the best way to insure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli

  25. This country is coming apart at the seams and these sociopathic dictators are at the roof of it. It’s time to build guillotines.

  26. Just imagine the repercussions; I get a text from my son “There’s an active shooter in the school, I can hear them coming down the hallway, don’t think I’m going to make it”… Then imagine me, rushing to my gun safe, jumping in my truck & doing mach 3 across town, traffic, lights & anything else be damned, trying to get to my son in time….

    I wouldn’t stop until that entire police department was disbanded and shut down for good.

  27. As police we would do mock bank robberies to prepare tellers for the real thing. Problem was even thought it was before hours and the tellers were aware it was training, one had chest pains and another had an accident when a blank was fired from a shotgun.

    We figured out long ago this type of training involving citizens can have unintended consequences

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