Violence in Schools
‘ALICE’: A new approach to school shooters

Oak Hills Local School District Active Shooter Response Video from Oak Hills on Vimeo.

It’s an uncomfortable and frustrating topic, but a necessary one. As violence in schools continues to rise, districts all over the country are trying to find ways to protect their children. Kings is one of those districts, bringing a new approach to active-shooter situations called ALICE. But what exactly is ALICE? Knight Times reporter McKenzie Metzger investigates this new program. Scroll down to read a dispatch from Purdue University, where KHS 2013 graduate Alec Paulson watched his campus erupt in chaos just last week after a student shot and killed a classmate in the engineering building where Paulson attends class. CAUTION: The Oak Hills training video above depicts intense, but simluated, school-shooter scenarios.

Ever since the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, and with the continued outbreaks of school violence, finding a way to protect school children and teachers has become a national debate.

McKenzie Metzger

M. Metzger

There has been a lot of conflict about what exactly should be done to guarantee safety. When faced with an active shooter, should teachers and students evacuate, hide, fight back? All of the above?

A new program called ALICE (alert, lock-down, inform, counter, evacuate) being adopted nationwide aims to address these concerns by changing the way schools respond to active shooters. Before, most school policies encouraged what some criticize as largely a “sitting duck” method, or what we call “lockdown.” Essentially, students and teachers would hide.

Kings students may recall these practice lockdowns. Lights are turned off, students hide in the corner of a room, and simply wait. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary sparked even more debate about this approach, as small children were shot while hiding in their classrooms.

And the shootings continue. A Jan. 23 report showed that since the beginning of 2014, the United States had suffered an average of one school shooting every other day. Tragic news has come out of New Mexico, Indiana, Delaware and New York, just to name a few. A 2013 KHS graduate, Alec Paulson, was nearby when a shooter killed a classmate at Purdue last week (see Paulson’s dispatch below).

Many would agree that it’s time for a new approach. ALICE encourages a more proactive response to a dangerous situation.

Proponents are quick to point out that ALICE is not always just “fighting back.” Critics of the program often claim ALICE encourages students to confront an armed attacker. But confrontation is only a small part of the program.

“ALICE is the leading training solution that increases our children’s and employee’s odds of survival during a violent intruder event,” says the ALICE Training Institute website.

So what exactly do these letters stand for?

A: Which stands for “Alert”

According to the Institute, “Alert” means to inform as many people as possible in the event of a shooter.

“The use of plain language, delivered through as many delivery channels as possible, is the best way to ensure awareness within the danger zone.”

L is for “Lockdown”

The Institute explains scenarios where lockdown is the better option and dispels myths about traditional lockdown that say hiding is always the best solution. Its website has six frequently-asked questions about ALICE and the answers so that people can learn more. http://www.alicetraining.com/alice-101/faq.aspx

I is for “Inform”

Even though there is already an alert, “inform” means to continue to ensure that the information and alert is out and known.

“Active shooters work alone 98 percent of the time. If the shooter is known to be in an isolated section of a building, occupants in other wards can safely evacuate while those in direct danger can lock-down and prepare to counter. Knowledge is the key to survival,” says the website.

C is for “Counter”

Contrary to many misconceptions, ALICE Training does not believe that confronting an intruder is the best response.

“Counter focuses on actions that create noise, movement, distance and distraction with the intent of reducing the shooter’s ability to shoot accurately. Creating a dynamic environment decreases the shooter’s chance of hitting a target and can provide the precious seconds needed in order to evacuate,” ALICE Training Institute says.

The ALICE training institute says that ALICE does not endorse civilians fighting an active shooter.

“Counter is a last-ditch and worst-case scenario option.”

E is for “Evacuate”

Evacuate is the last step in ALICE. Evacuating to a safe area helps to keep people out of harm’s way. Its purpose is to keep people from having to come into contact with the threat.

“Safety is our primary focus for this program, and we do not endorse risking lives of students or employees,” says the ALICE Training Institute.

The ALICE Training Institute offers training classes to increase preparedness in case of an active shooter situation. It also works to make sure that when working in schools, their training is age appropriate and formats to what the students need.

Kings High School has been training its teachers in ALICE for the past two years and plans to hold student safe&soundtraining in the near future. The district recently purchased new door locks called “Bearacades” designed to keep an intruder out of classrooms and will be installing them on every classroom door. Click the photo to the right for more information on Bearacades. Other area schools, such as Oak Hills, have already offered their students the training (the Oak Hills video is atop this post) and other schools are jumping on board.

KHS School Resource Officer John Downs said that ALICE offers an alternative to the school safety procedures that most people have gotten used to.

“It gives options,” Downs said.

KHS teacher Melanie Contratto said she welcomes ALICE training, because it offers plans for so many different scenarios.

“No matter how much we prepare, you can never predict what’s going to happen,” Contratto said.

Related: Cincinnati Enquirer report on local schools considering “panic buttons” in classrooms.

 

Kings grad responds to Purdue shooting

Police yelled, “Get down on the ground!”

alecpaulson

Alec Paulson: KHS 2013 Grad now at Purdue

The new year began with a rash of public shootings around the United States, in schools, universities, even shopping malls. One shooting that made headlines occurred at Purdue University on Jan. 21 when Andrew Boldt, an engineering student, was shot and stabbed in an electrical engineering classroom.

 An arrest has been made in the slaying, but so far there have been few answers as to what motivated the first shooting at Purdue in about 17 years.

 2013 Kings High School graduate Alec Paulson is a first-year engineering student at Purdue who takes classes in the building where the slaying occurred. He spoke this week to The Knight Times, and recounted that frantic day on campus. Here are a few excerpts from, the discussion:

It was 12:05 when I realized an incident was occurring. The first indication I had that something was abnormal was when I heard what sounded like police yell, “Get down on the ground, get down on the ground!” around the far corner of the hallway I was sitting in.

I was talking with a peer mentor at the time in the basement of the building where the action occurred, however was luckily in the opposite corner of the building. About a minute later three police officers came in toting rifles and yelled for me, my peer mentor, and one or two other students in the hallway to clear the building with our hands up. We had started putting coats on when we heard the shouting to be ready so we were ushered out of the building where cops and emergency vehicles were gathering.

Outside I received the campus alert text message stating that a shooting had occurred in EE and to avoid the area. I was surprised because other than shouting I had heard nothing remotely like gunshots. Seeing as my next class was only two buildings down and connected to EE through a sky bridge I decided to skip that and obey the directive to avoid the area.

I went down a few buildings in the direction of my dorm. Stopped long enough to text and call my parents, then went back to my dorm, which is a ways away and where I learned that the campus was entering a lockdown. Those on my floor and not at class gathered watching the news and listening to the police scanner online to glean what information we could about what was happening.

I had already missed my one class (Tuesday is my light day) and the food courts were closed. So we stayed hunkered down until around 1:40 when campus resumed normal operations except for electrical engineering remaining closed. Other than stay in locations from text alerts and signs on the residence hall doors not to leaved we were pretty unsure what to do.

I was a little intimidated when there were guns pointed in my direction early on but I never felt unsafe seeing as I saw the emergency response presence early on. I was however more alert for the rest of the day and the trip back to my dorm especially.

The mood is mostly back to normal. It is still a little subdued because we are behind in a lot of classes and whenever I notice that I remember why that is and it gives me pause as I consider the implications of it. That day especially people were quieter and more furtive. I went to lunch when the food court first opened and people were interesting to watch more wide-eyed and aware of their surroundings than the usual electronic-isolation, and the atmosphere was more tense and quiet than normal.

I find it hard to believe that something like this would occur on campus. Also seeing as I am insulated from the effects I know it but it isn’t sinking in cleanly. I think preparation is key and it makes me wonder what I would do in a similar situation and how I would proceed if I was confronted with something that extreme. It also makes me consider what I am doing and if life can end that easily if what I am doing is really what I want. Am I happy devoting my time to this career and major and also if I am happy with how I comport myself everyday. It made me take a step back, in more ways than one, and reconsider.

One Response to

  1. RallyWrites says:

    A sad topic, but a very thorough piece of reporting by the writer. The letter from the Kings graduate is a great addition to the story.

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