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School lockdowns can traumatize young students, report finds

Trauma reported from school lockdowns

In the wake of deadly shootings like Parkland, Sandy Hook and Columbine, school lockdowns have become standard for schools across the country. But a new report by The Washington Post explores how traumatic lockdowns can be for young students.

The report finds more than 4.1 million U.S. students experienced at least one lockdown in the 2017-2018 school year. Students of all ages were impacted, including more than 1 million elementary school aged children.

The practice starts young. Last year, CBS News correspondent Adriana Diaz visited the Casa de Ninos Preschool in Yuma, Arizona. A drill involved kids as young as 4 years old who were taught to hide after teachers shut off the lights and secured their doors.

Washington Post database editor Steve Rich said lockdowns happen so frequently because schools need to be prepared for actual crises. On a typical day, at least 16 campuses went into lockdown, the Post found, often because of a threat of gun violence or reports of gunfire near the school.

"These things can last for hours, potentially, and they may not know what happens afterward, and so it can cause in a lot of these kids lasting trauma because they think that they're actually in the line of fire," Rich said. "When a shooting like Parkland happens, in the immediate aftermath, every lockdown feels like it's the end for these kids."

Rich said the Post found kids who had written wills, soiled themselves and texted their families goodbye. CBS News spoke to 12-year-old Ajani Dartiguenave last fall after he wrote a goodbye letter to his family during a one-hour lockdown at his North Carolina elementary school.

"I was very scared and I thought that many of my friends would die," he said.

His mother, Claudia Charles, said the letter shocked her, but recent school shootings have triggered her son's anxiety.

"When there was a shooting at another school that was about 45 minutes away, it wasn't until this incident happened that it really got — it was close enough to home that I realized he was actually affected by what was going on at a neighboring school and that he had concerns," she said.

Rich called this kind of trauma a "symptom" of gun violence in America.

"As long as there's gun violence in every single community, there will be lockdowns in every single community because any threat of gun violence is potentially a valid threat."

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