How Active Shooter Drills Became a Big (and Possibly Traumatizing) Business

As kids prepare for the next mass shooting, experts say high-tech surveillance, tactical gear, and live drills are doing more harm than good

Adam K. Raymond
Published in
12 min readSep 12, 2018
Aug. 16, 2018 — An active shooter drill in a Los Angeles high school. Photo by Ronen Tivony/NurPhoto via Getty Images

OnOn August 3, just after 8 a.m., a gunman in a green hoodie, dark sunglasses, and a camouflage face mask quietly entered Boyle County High School, located outside Danville, Kentucky. He dropped a small explosive by a side door, entered the cafeteria, and began firing rounds from his shotgun.

Bodies piled up as he moved methodically through the hallways, squeezing the trigger, taking 10 steps, squeezing again. By the time local law enforcement shot and killed him, dozens of motionless bodies were strewn across the tile floor, their clothes soaked with blood.

Fortunately, none of the injuries were real. Not the bullets. Not the bomb. Boyle County High School was the site of an active shooter drill, one of many similar trainings held at schools across the country that aim to prepare teachers, students, and, in some cases, first responders for the worst.

The percentage of public schools running such drills, which include everything from extravagant Michael Bay–style productions to low-key lockdowns, was nearly 95 percent in 2015–2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And that was before 17 students were killed in February at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

Within months, Iowa, Florida, and South Carolina had all passed laws mandating such drills in schools, joining six other states that already had similar laws on the books. Business is booming for ALICE Training, the leader in active shooter defense instruction, which just opened a new headquarters in Ohio. For $589, the company puts individuals through two days of classes, then sends them back to their school or place of work to train everyone else. Its customers include some 4,000 K-12 schools and nearly 1,000 higher-education institutions, making it the biggest (but not the only) company providing the service.

The push to protect schools from mass shooters, and to make a buck off the hysteria around them, has also…



Adam K. Raymond
Writer for

A writer in Louisville, Kentucky.