Hoogeveen school to run school-shooting drills

High school classroom
High school classroom. (Photo: HaMinh1997 / Wikimedia Commons)

The Alfa college in Hoogeveen will be running school-shooting drills next week, the school informed pupils and parents in a letter. The school wants to train pupils how to react if they are ever faced with such violence. General education union AOb is baffled by the exercise, but the police applaud it, AD reports.

The drills are scheduled for Wednesday, June 13th. Three times unannounced attacks will be imitated in three different buildings. The exercise is happening in collaboration with the police and pupils following the uniform-profession training. One student will play the role of the suspect and "act threatening", according to the letter. 

The Alfa college is taking "its task and responsibility in the area of safety seriously", the director of the school wrote, according to the newspaper. "Unfortunately we hear and read with some regularity the reports about school shootings in the United states. In the Netherlands an increase of threat in this area is real. With this exercise we can improve our training and protocols, in close consultation with the emergency services."

The start and end of the drills will be announced via the school's public address system. "Because this is the first time that we are accurately mimicking a school shooting incident, we will report it in advance. It must be clear to all pupils and employees that this is an imitation", the letter sent to parents and pupils states. After the drills, students can discuss it with their teachers and Victim Support staff.

Liesbeth Verheggen, chairman of union AOb, is completely dissatisfied with this drill. "I think it is actually very serious. In particular the text in the letter that a threat in this area is realistic in the Netherlands. This raises the suggestion that our head of counter-terrorism in the Netherlands expects that something like this will happen in the Netherlands. As far as I know, we don't have this phenomenon in the Netherlands at all and let's keep it that way", she said to the Netherlands. 

Verheggen is also upset about the content of the exercise. "How do you get it into your head to have a student play that role? Moreover, after the exercise you put the teacher in front of the class to talk to students. How are they prepared for this? I find this fear mongering from which we should stay very far away."

In an initial reaction, the Education Inspectorate told AD that it is up to schools themselves to decide whether such exercises are useful.

The Noord-Nederland police applaud the school's initiative, on the other hand. "This is not something new at all. These kinds of exercises take place all over the country", spokesperson Ron Reinds said to the newspaper. "For us it is nice to practice in a very realistic environment. We have a shooting range, a home, a gym and a training center to practice in, but by chance wo do not have a school. So it is simply good to practice."

He too stressed that there is no concrete threat of a school shooting in the Netherlands. "But if it does happen, you want to be trained and you want that to have happened in the most realistic atmosphere."