By Travis Smola
The Schoolcraft school board viewed a presentation from Portage police detective Bryan Taffee about a school safety program being considered for Schoolcraft schools next fall.
The program, called ALICE, is a training program designed to prepare students and staff in the event of an active shooter in the building. It has been taught at about 4,200 U.S. public schools. “Most of our students here shouldn’t have to worry about these things, Taffee said. His wife is a teacher and he said he never imagined a day he’d have to worry about the safety of her or their kids at schools. “Those days are gone.”
Board Vice President Ryan Ledlow had suggested bringing the program to Schoolcraft after he went through the training at Portage schools. “Having gone through it, it’s a really good program,” Ledlow said. “The training was phenomenal for the staff.”
ALICE is an acronym for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate, the steps that can be taken in the event of an armed intruder into the school, though not necessarily in that order.
“Hopefully you never have to get close to using them,” Taffee said. But the actions have been shown by research to make such situations more survivable. Evacuation is the preferred option and it’s fairly simple. The children are taught to run as fast and as far away as they can.
Options like lockdown teach students and staff to lock and barricade doors to prevent the intruder from entering. Counter is a last resort. Taffee stressed that this portion does not teach fighting. Instead, it teaches distraction techniques that can interrupt and disrupt a shooter.
He said the simple act of throwing something across a shooter’s view could distract them long enough to give time for people to escape.
Training is taken to an even more intense level for staff members. In a drill, a police officer begins the scenario by shooting blanks outside the building. Inside the building, a participant uses an airsoft gun to fire slow-moving pellets.
It sounds extreme. but Taffee said it helps empower people and helps them understand how they will react under the stress. He also said teachers can opt out of this scenario, noting that If they’re frightened, they won’t learn anything.
He compared it to any kind of emergency preparedness. “It’s like practicing at home for a fire,” Taffee said. “The more you do it, the easier it gets, the more efficient it gets.”
Ledlow said the training got him thinking about things he hadn’t considered before, such as what to do after barricading a door. “It brings a larger sense of comfort to know there are some options and you’re increasing survival,” he said.
The program isn’t the only thing that can be done to make things safer. Taffee said simple policy changes like locking classroom doors can immediately make the schools safer.
Superintendent Rusty Stitt said an informational meeting will be scheduled in the future so parents can ask questions. “We believe this is the right approach as we move forward,” he said.