Training, Drilling, and Exercising Toolkit

3.4 Active Threat Exercises

Section 3.4 – Active Threat Exercises, is a summary explanation of the Texas Education Code 37.1141 and the Commissioner’s Rules 19 TAC §103.1211, “Active Threat Exercises” which was updated June 2022.

Active Threat Exercises, including but not subject to active shooter simulations, are defined as “any exercise that includes a simulated active aggressor.” Please note that active threat exercises are not required as part of the mandated school drills and exercises as outlined in Texas Education Code 37.114. Many local educational agencies, which include school districts and open-enrollment charter schools, might instead consider using a tabletop exercise (as defined in Texas Education Code 103.1209) in place of a functional or full-scale active threat exercise. Districts might also consider conducting the active threat exercise during a non-instructional time when non-participants are not present. Before a school district may conduct an active threat exercise, the district shall complete the following in accordance with Texas Education Code 37.1141.

Develop the Exercise

It is essential that the content of the exercise, including planning and execution, is created by a district team and includes input from multiple stakeholder perspectives. This team shall include representatives from the following groups:

  • School Administrators
  • Teachers
  • School-based mental health professionals
  • Law enforcement

When developing plans for the active threat exercise, input from parents or guardians and students must be included.

Texas Education Code 37.1141 requires access to mental health supports before, during, and after the exercise for all participants. It is vital that the planning team is certain to create an exercise that is age and developmentally appropriate to the participants. Developmental appropriateness considerations include the needs of special populations, students with disabilities, and emergent bilingual students.

As the physical and psychological safety of all participants is necessary for planning, the team shall prepare for the active threat exercise to be conducted in a trauma-informed way. This minimizes potential distress created by the experience. It is necessary to prepare for the mental and emotional well-being of participants by considering the prior impact of trauma, grief, and crisis experiences. As part of the active threat exercise, it is required that the planning team develop and provide a clear strategy, with clear communication of that strategy, if participants wish to withdraw before or during the exercise.

Provide Adequate Notice

When adequately notifying those who will be affected, school districts need to be sure to include the following information about the active threat exercise.

  • Date
  • Content
  • Form
  • Tone

It must be stated in the notice whether the exercise will include a live simulation of an active threat, such as an actual shooter incident. The notice shall also include clear communication of the developed strategy if participants wish to withdraw before or during the exercise.

Before an active threat exercise can take place, ample and adequate notice of at least two weeks must be provided to the individuals or groups who will participate in or be subject to the effects of the exercise.

This will include:

  • Staff
  • Students
  • First responders
  • Parents or guardians of participating students
  • All other individuals or groups impacted by the exercise

Texas Education Code 37.1141 requires that the notice be provided to parents and guardians in their native language, to the best of the district’s ability, and posted to multiple distribution networks. These platforms can include the district’s social media platforms, the district’s website, and more.

Conduct the Exercise


Before the start of the active threat exercise, notify first responder organizations who would most likely respond to an emergency in your district that the exercise is about to take place. This keeps responders aware in the event of a false report or alarm stemming from the exercise.

Be sure to establish a safe zone in the area around the exercise to keep out actual (live) firearms, ammunition, and other weapons. However, this excludes firearms, ammunition, or other weapons carried by a peace officer, school resource officer, school marshal, or any other person authorized by the district to carry those items on school grounds.


Immediately prior to starting, make a live and audible announcement to signal the beginning of the exercise. This announcement needs to note that it is only an exercise and is not a real emergency. Additionally, this announcement shall cover the specified elements from the section above, “Composing the Notice” (TEC, §37.1141(a)(2)), including that the active threat exercise will include a live simulation of an actual threat, such as a shooting incident – if applicable to the exercise your district is conducting.

Please note: the district may not prohibit a parent or guardian from transporting or storing firearms and ammunition, or other weapons they are legally authorized to possess, in a motor vehicle while picking up a student from school during the exercise.


After the commencement of the exercise, be sure to have the proper mental health supports in place for participants. Data regarding the effectiveness and the impact of the active threat exercise shall be tracked and collected. This includes feedback about the exercise from participants – students and staff – or family members of participants. Information that districts have collected will be submitted to the Texas School Safety Center.