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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last year, Florida legislators mandated that schools conduct monthly code red drills.
But now some Broward School District leaders and students are asking if that’s too many.
CBS4 News sat down on Wednesday with Broward School Board Chair Heather Brinkworth along with 3 members of the Student Government Association at Fort Lauderdale High School to get their honest and thoughtful feedback on these monthly code red drills.
They each agreed that code red drills are necessary but they believe one a month might be overdoing it.
Here’s what the students said:
“I believe code red drills reinstitute trauma and cause a lot of fear,” said Abigail Elvin-Ivey, Senior Class President.
“It’s to the point where nothing’s reality because you just expect it to be a drill. Just because they happen so often,” said Jonathan Mungal, Sophomore Class President.
“Our fight or flight response is completely gone and we need that adrenalin or that fight or flight worry in order to survive and if we can’t do that than we’re not necessarily doing the best to protect ourselves,” said Amber Bennett, Junior Class President.
Bennett said she’s seen most students have one of two responses to the drills, which they’re told about ahead of time.
“It’s either the one who is basically almost having a panic attack or the one who is making jokes the whole time, not staying quiet, on their phones, not obeying what is asked of them,” she said.
During the drills, the students are supposed to go to a space in a classroom or in an area of the school where they can be safe. They’re expected to be quiet and to remain there until an all-clear is given. But the students fear that the constant drilling is desensitizing them to the importance of the drills.
“People are always complaining, people are always speaking, people are always on their phones,” said Abigail Elvin-Ivey. “No one really follows the procedure because at this point we’re all very tired of it.”
Abigail brought her concerns directly to Broward School Board Chair Heather Brinkworth during a recent roundtable discussion. However, Brinkworth told her there’s actually little she can do about it.
“It’s a state mandate and right now they’re gonna be monthly until that changes,” Brinkworth said, adding that there have 1,700 code red drills in Broward County Schools this year and 65 actual code red lockdowns during the school year.
Brinkworth said she believes the drills are probably too frequent and she’d like to see them include more random scenarios to prepare students and staff for the unpredictability of an actual emergency.
“I think it’s important that we look at what we’re asking them to do during these code reds and that we’re teaching them that there is not going to be a perfect response and they’re going to need to think about what is happening,” Brinkworth said.
The students understand the need for the code red drills. However, they worry that in an actual code red emergency fear and panic would take over and what they’ve learned would be forgotten or because of the frequency of the drills the value of the lessons is being tuned out.
“We just know where to go, where to put out bodies,” said Abigail. “We know we’re supposed to walk to this corner of the classroom, not be on our phones and not speak. If there was to ever be a code red situation, I think people would be worried about much more than that.”
Broward School district leaders indicated at a recent School Board meeting that they may ask state legislators to reduce the monthly requirement for code red drills and maybe try to have them once a quarter. Brinkworth said she wants elected officials to consult with school safety experts about how these drills should be handled for everyone’s benefit.