By Schoolcraft 11th grade English Language Arts students Dalton Adams, Kaitlyn Parker, Savannah McDonald, Dawson Shearer, Bowen Steen, Josh Stokes
In August, teachers at Schoolcraft Community Schools began training for a new school shooter protocol called ALICE, an anticipated improvement to their previous lockdown procedure. The intense two-hour training introduced teachers to five options should they ever face a shooter in their school building.
ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate – the five options staff and students could use in order to stay safe from a potential intruder. While not a set of steps to be followed in a prescribed order, the ALICE acronym does provide staff and students with an easy way to remember their different options in a rapidly developing, stressful situation. “It allows us to use our own judgement and put our kids’ safety first,” said Schoolcraft Elementary teacher Amy Desmond.
Prior to the start of the school year, members of the Portage Police Department visited each building and trained the staff, putting them in realistic situations so they could compare the old lockdown strategy with the new ALICE training.
To make the training realistic, police fired real guns loaded with foam bullets while school staff – outfitted in long pants, tennis shoes, and safety glasses – responded with the appropriate ALICE option according to each situation. Alert and Inform options include verbal notification or the use of technology such as cell phones or the school’s PA system to keep people informed. Lockdown involves barricading doors with desks, chairs, and tables to prevent or delay a shooter’s access, possibly allowing for the Evacuate option, if it’s safe. Counter, the most frightening option, calls for quick action as students and teachers throw objects like books, laptops, or staplers at a nearby shooter to disorient him, inhibit his accuracy, buy time to escape, or possibly subdue him to secure the weapon.
“It was frighteningly realistic but empowering because we were given tools that not only will help save our own lives but could help save the lives of many of our students,” said Middle School secretary Shannon McDonald.
“Being shot at by real guns, although they were loaded with foam rounds, was sobering and unsettling,” said high school English teacher Doug Martin. “No one laughed. No one giggled. Huddling under a table with another teacher while hearing those rounds approach your classroom and hiding spot was terrifying.”
Training for high school staff differed from training of elementary staff, due to the age of the students. High school teachers were trained to work directly with students to help barricade classroom doors and throw things at a shooter; elementary staff members were trained to barricade the door themselves while small children help their teacher by supplying objects to distract an intruder and disorient him once inside a classroom. Elementary principal Matt Webster visited each classroom and read a book to young students called I’m Not Scared… I’m Prepared! by Julia Cook. The book allowed elementary staff to teach the children what to do in such a situation without scaring them.
Many students in the district agree the new procedure seems to make more sense than the previous lockdown-only procedure. It allows people to follow natural instincts in a “fight or flight” situation. Schoolcraft junior Carter Griffioen said, “It is a lot better because rather than sitting in a corner like ducks, we are actually able to do something about it.”
The ALICE training procedure has been adopted by several schools to improve the former “shut the door and hide” lockdown procedure. More trainings and drills are scheduled for Schoolcraft staff and students to practice together later this year.