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Local expert weighs in on school preparedness after Uvalde shooting

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Schools are working hard to shore up safety policies in the wake of the recent shooting in Uvalde, TX. And experts are weighing in with advice on how to best prepare.

Jaclyn Schildkraut is an associate professor of criminal justice at SUNY Oswego whose research focuses on mass shootings.

Over the past four years, she has worked with schools on safety plans, and she said it’s important to find a balance.

"We're not using sensationalized techniques,” said Schildkraut. “We are using trauma-informed practices, and we've built a collaboration, and it's had immeasurable benefits. So, you don't have to scare kids to prepare them."

Schildkraut said despite recent high-profile shootings, she believes schools are still very safe in general. She said most schools are already doing quite a bit to minimize risks, including using single-point entries, visitor management systems, security personnel, and cameras.

But Schildkraut, who grew up in the Parkland, FL, area, said it’s crucial to be prepared.

"We don't want everybody to live in fear, but the minute that you say, 'It could never happen here," is the minute you become complacent.”

One proposal that Schildkraut said would probably not help schools become safer would be arming teachers. She said research shows even trained law enforcement officers find it challenging to hit someone firing a gun at them in an active shooter situation.

"Their hit rates are incredibly low, and civilians would receive even less training and time on a range than officers would,” said Schildkraut. “I think in terms of just what we know about the potential for it to be an effective solution, the information's just not there to support that."

But Schildkraut said lockdown drills are an important piece of the puzzle. She said while it’s important to minimize trauma to students when it comes to the drills, parents should stress to their children that they should take them seriously.

"It's very important that we keep in the mind what the goal of the drill is, which is to build muscle memory,” said Schildkraut. “We're simply practicing a set of steps that we want individuals to be able to use if for any reason their cognitive functioning is impaired by stress."

Schildkraut recommends reminding students that lockdown drills are used to prepare for any danger inside the building, not just shootings, and encouraging an open dialogue for any concerns kids might have.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.