Although the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools and directed attention to other matters, one issue which had raised concern prior to the pandemic — the role of lockdown drills in schools — remains to be addressed as education leaders prepare for the return of students and adults to gathering daily in large groups in schools.

By one estimate, 95 percent of U.S. schools perform lockdown drills as part of their emergency response plans each year. Their widespread use has been one response to calls for improved safety and security in schools, as the drills aim to help prevent future attacks or, in the event that one occurs, to minimize the loss of life.

Nonetheless, calls to end the use of lockdown drills have been raised, often based on concerns about their effects on the safety and psychological well-being of students and adults who participate.

Despite the widespread use of lockdown drills, research on the impact of such practices is sparse. Nonetheless, the question of whether to end the practice of lockdown drills should be decided based on evidence. Accordingly, this research brief summarizes arguments for and against lockdown drills, as well as available research and best practices, to provide better context to address questions about the use of such drills in schools.

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