A limited amount of research was found regarding teacher perceptions of their ability to respond to an active shooter incident. This study was intended to provide relevant information for school leaders to use in their efforts to improve school safety measures. Data was collected in a mixed-methods, explanatory model research study using a survey, the Active Assailant Prevention and Response Survey (AAPRS), and semi-structured interviews. Teachers enrolled in graduate-level education courses at a large university in the southeastern United States made up the study's population. A majority of the sample population agreed that they were confident in the planning protocol (M = 3.22), confident regarding their school's drills and procedures (M = 3.12), and confident in their ability to respond to an active school shooter (M = 3.01). Participants reported less confidence in the following areas: access to crisis management plans, involvement in developing crisis management plans, effectiveness of drills, training for faculty, training for students, and ability to protect students during an attack. Demographic factors such as gender (p > .10), years of teaching experience (p > .10), and presence of security (p > .10) during the school day did not significantly impact teacher perceptions of their ability to respond to an active school shooter. Teachers working in secondary schools with students in grades 6 through 12 had slightly less confidence in their ability to respond than teachers working in elementary school settings, but this difference was not statistically significant (p > .10). Teachers working in schools that conducted fewer than three active shooter drills per year had less confidence in their ability to respond to an active shooter crisis than those whose schools conducted drills more frequently. A Pearson r correlation revealed r (109) = .520, p < .001, demonstrating a strong correlation between perceptions of planning protocol and teacher's perceived ability to respond to an active shooter. There was also a significant correlation, r (109) = .637, p < .001, between participant perceptions of drills and procedures and perceptions of ability to respond. The results from the interviews were consistent with the AAPRS findings and helped illuminate teacher perceptions. Many of those interviewed suggested that a more personalized approach to training that explored specific dynamics of individual classrooms would improve confidence in their ability to respond to an active shooter. The interviews also revealed a need for drills or practice during less structured times of the day, such as lunch or during an assembly, so that teachers and students can feel more prepared. Interview participants revealed a need for first-aid training as well as training for what to do if an attacker infiltrated their classroom. Policymakers and school leaders will be informed through these findings of factors that can help teachers feel more confident in their ability to respond to an active shooter crisis.


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Graduation Date





Vitale, Thomas


Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


College of Community Innovation and Education


Educational Leadership and Higher Education

Degree Program

Educational Leadership; Executive Track




CFE0008313; DP0023750





Release Date

December 2020

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)