Do ALICE training tactics put students, teachers at risk?
Questions about student and teacher safety continue to mount as some schools deploy questionable drill tactics in which children and teachers are instructed to throw things at, and to attack, armed gunmen.
The tactics stem from the controversial “Counter” component of the A.L.I.C.E. Training program, which stands for Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate.
Questionable tactics stemming from A.L.I.C.E. training
In recent months, school and police officials have reported some highly questionable tactics that a number of veteran school security professionals believe put students and teachers at a greater safety risk:
- A Wisconsin police officer told me earlier this week that at one school in his jurisdiction, where a number of school staff were sent to A.L.I.C.E. training separate from his department, elementary students were told to keep a can of soup in their desks to throw at an intruder if a gunman entered their classroom;
- An Ohio news story reported that A.L.I.C.E. training in one school district would be “age appropriate”: They were telling kindergarten through sixth graders not to attack the gunman, but only to throw things at gunmen to distract them.
- A police officer told me that at one school in a district which had sent staff to A.L.I.C.E. training, a teacher came out of a classroom and tried to attack at a SWAT team member with a hammer during a tactical exercise. The teacher was “gently put to the ground” according to the officer, unlike a real gunman who would have simply killed her, the officer said.
- A high school principal asked our team, “Do you mean I shouldn’t play loud, weird music over the PA system to distract the active shooter when he comes down the hall?,” a new step he was planning after A.L.I.C.E. training is his school-community.
- In one video on YouTube demonstrating A.L.I.C.E. training, a voice comes across the school’s P.A. system asking the active shooter, ”Hey jerk, why are you in our school?,” as the active shooter goes shooting down the hallway.
- One superintendent told us that her teachers did not want to do lockdowns any longer. Instead, they wanted to “just run” if a serious incident occurred. It was unclear who would be supervising students left behind when the teachers (and presumably at least some other students) ran.
These and other examples have left a number of veteran school security, psychologists and law enforcement professionals with serious implementation concerns, doubts and objections to A.L.I.C.E.
Police officers cannot answer age, developmental, special needs, or policy questions
In two spirited workshops at a state conference in Wisconsin earlier this week, police officers advocating for A.L.I.C.E. or similar models remained unable to answer questions about how, if at all, these training programs account for age and developmental factors, special needs children (autistic, mobility impaired, behavioral and emotional disorders, etc.), and other child-centered and preK-12 school-specific concerns.
No one could point to written school board policies, regulations and procedures governing A.L.I.C .E. type programs even though some of their districts were implementing the concept. They were also unable to confirm that written opinions supporting these programs had been received from school attorneys and insurance carriers.
A couple of officers suggested that policies, regulations, procedures, and reviews by attorneys were not even necessary even though school employees and students were being instructed to attack gunmen. I asked them if their police departments sent them out with Tasers, guns and self-defense tactics without policies, legal review, etc., and why they should have these management protocols yet schools with people instructed to attack gunmen should not have them.
Good options are one thing; Bad options are another
It is unclear in some of these examples as to whether they were directly taught by A.L.I.C.E. instructors or if they are the result of what was interpreted from the instruction by those who attended A.L.I.C.E. training. Either way — direct instruction or interpretation — these tactics leave many experienced preK-12 school safety believing that such practices increase, not decrease, the risks of students and teachers being hurt or killed.
A.L.I.C.E. advocates often suggest that schools do not have options. Educators already have options, and they need to recognize that there is a difference between good options and bad options. Bad options such as the above practices done under the umbrella of A.L.I.C.E. training are options that those selling A.L.I.C.E. training can keep out of our schools, in my opinion.
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