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Active shooter simulations would effectively be barred in Minnesota schools under a provision in a sweeping education bill moving through the Legislature.

Instead, school districts would be required to provide students with at least one hour of violence prevention training per year and adopt a uniform standard for active shooter drills.

The distinction, Sen. Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley, said during the education conference committee meeting Tuesday, is that simulations are "basically full-scale drills that can mimic what an active shooter situation can look like."

The practice has long been criticized for the traumatic effects it can have on students.

"Right now, in statute, we don't differentiate between active shooter drills and active shooter simulations," Maye Quade said. "This really just puts some guard rails, definitions and guard rails around what's an active shooter simulation, what's an active shooter drill."

The conference committee unanimously adopted the provisions. The education bill must be voted on by the full House and Senate before heading to Gov. Tim Walz for his signature.

Maye Quade credited the breadth of the restrictions in part to student input. Last year, hundreds of students from across the metro area rallied at Gold Medal Park in the aftermath of the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead. Their demands included a call for legislators to tighten restrictions on the way schools conduct active shooter drills.

Sen. Zach Duckworth, R-Lakeville, said parents in his district weren't keen on their children participating in demonstrations that simulated an active shooter situation, preferring lockdown drills instead.

"The concern was, and hearing from parents, they may not want their children there if the simulation is occurring rather than a drill," he said.

Former educators on the conference committee also chimed in to explain how drills affected their students. Sen. Mary Kunesh, DFL-New Brighton, a retired teacher, said simulations in elementary schools sometimes consisted of police officers entering school buildings and jiggling door handles and looking into windows to ensure children aren't visible in the classroom.

"It really does have an adverse effect on our students," she said.

Rep. Cheryl Youakim, DFL-Hopkins, said that she's done drills with students from kindergarten through 12th grade, and even older students have a tough time returning to their school routine afterward.

"We do fire drills all the time in the name of school safety. And you can do that without lighting a hallway on fire," she said. "That's basically the difference."

The education bill would require the Minnesota Department of Education to establish a statewide model for the safety drills by July 1, 2024. Those models would be updated every two years and require districts to solicit student input before implementing them locally.

Minnesota law does not require school districts to conduct active shooter drills. Rather, schools are required to conduct five lockdown drills per year. Those drills, as instructed by the state Department of Public Safety, require teachers to clear hallways and shepherd students into classrooms.

Current law also requires five fire drills and one tornado drill per school every academic year.

The education bill would bar districts from conducting an active shooter simulation during regular school hours if more than half of enrolled students are in the building, effectively banning them.

The legislation would also require districts to provide at least 24 hours' notice to families before an active shooter drill and mandate that schools set aside time afterward for teachers to discuss it with students and provide them with time to process the experience.

Youakim said it was common for students to sob after a drill or remain quiet for the rest of the day, adding that it was essential for educators to have a "come back and re-center ourselves" conversation with kids afterward.

"I think that's one of the most important parts of this bill," she said.