Proposed Wisconsin Bill Would Allow Students to be Warned before Drills

Proposed Wisconsin Bill Would Allow Students to be Warned before Drills

Under proposed changes to Wisconsin law, students could be given advance warning about emergency drills.

A proposed bill in the Wisconsin legislature would allow administrators at public and private schools to warn students, staff and families before conducting fire, tornado or “school safety incident” drills, if schools determine it “is in the best interest of pupils.”

Under current law, emergency drills are to be conducted “without previous warning.”

Rep. Mark Born said the bill would give principals the ability to decide whether they want to provide advance warning about drills, and to whom they give the warnings, which could be helpful for students with disabilities who might have more negative reactions to unannounced emergency drills.

“We’re trying to protect people from traumatic incidents, but if you’re creating emotional, mental and psychological trauma while you’re doing it, it’s kind of counter-productive,” said Sharon Schmeling, executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools. “When you practice when you’re calm, you’re going to learn better.”

In February, the Madison School Board changed the district’s policy to require advance warnings for drills about “school violence events” in the wake of criticism from parents who said unannounced active-shooter drills last fall at an elementary and middle school traumatized some children.

According to the district’s legal counsel Matt Bell, “school violence event” drills are separate drills established under school safety plans, and state law doesn’t explicitly prohibit districts from providing advance warning about those.

The new bill will be heard before the Assembly Education Committee.

About the Author

Jessica Davis is the Associate Content Editor for 1105 Media.