Mention “Alice” in American classrooms before 2000, and you’d have heard discussions about the little girl in Wonderland. But the anxieties and fears that the ‘Alice’ of 2016 responds to aren’t imaginary, evil Queens. Instead, they’re loaded guns and active shooters.
Following the spike in school shootings since the 1999 Columbine incident, both teachers and parents have grown to face a new kind of threat. In response to fears of an active school shooter scenario, ALICE Training was developed.
Go ask ALICE
‘ALICE’— Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate— is a series of steps taught to potential victims in active shooter scenarios so they can ‘participate in their own survival’. The program has been introduced to schools to prepare teachers, students and administrators to deal with an armed intruder.
The training was developed in the home of a Texas police officer Greg Crane and his wife Lisa, a high school principal. After Columbine, the Cranes wondered if current school programs, that stressed hiding, were sufficient.
Crane emphasizes escaping danger, arguing that hiding in the dark is not always the best or only alternative. Instead, ALICE empowers teachers to assess a situation and to make the best decision based on the information available.
In Sylvania Township, ALICE Training has been implemented.
“We have to change the thinking of educators and students from believing that hiding in their classrooms with the lights off is the way to respond. We teach them to do something so that our students aren’t ‘sitting ducks,’” explained Sergeant Clarence Whalen of the Sylvania Township Police. “We train them on a regular basis and do drills, almost like fire drills. Sometimes, those drills include a simulated attack, with the sound of a gun and the ‘bad guy’ trying to get into classrooms. Teachers are required to review ALICE materials every year and acknowledge that they have done so. It turns out that 20 percent of Sylvania teachers have trained to be ALICE instructors.”
This program is becoming more popular, as teachers in most local school districts have attended ALICE in-service meetings. Yet it is not without controversy. Some school safety organizations worry that the training is too complicated to be given only once, and they express concern that expecting frightened children to throw things at a shooter is inappropriate. Still others worry that throwing things at an agitated shooter will only incite him to shoot more.
Lieutenant Joe Heffernan, Public Information Officer of the Toledo Police, has heard these objections and understands them. “We’ve been teaching children about personal safety for a long time. We talk to them about not talking to strangers and encourage them to fight if somebody tries to get them into a car. So this is another way to make sure they know they don’t have to be victims,” he explains. “We keep things simple and we make sure their teachers know what to do without causing the children to panic. We have presented ALICE to parents, too, so they know what their children are learning.”
ALICE principles have been presented to students and employees in local schools, businesses, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, movie theaters, and shopping malls. Heffernan notes that TPD representatives will go wherever they are invited to present the ALICE program. He sums up the program’s value with the observation: “Everyone has a right to stay alive. ALICE can give a fighting chance.”
ALICE Training in our Area
What school districts have it, and when did they get it?
2011- Oregon School District
2012 – Rossford Public Schools, Sylvania Public Schools, Notre Dame Academy
2013- Toledo Public Schools, Perrysburg Schools, Ottawa Hills Local School District, Maumee City School District, St. Ursula Academy
2015 – Washington Local Schools
Does ALICE Training send us down a rabbit hole of anxieties?
Does this type of training create an unnecessary fear in kids?
“At first, my instinct was to shield my own kids completely and convince them monsters don’t exist…. But the reality is it’s really happening. Tragedies are made worse because people don’t really know how to respond at all. How can we make them safer?” – Joel Brownfield, RN, senior clinical manager at Horizon Behavioral Solutions and a certified ALICE trainer
The ‘countering’ step sounds a lot like fighting— is this safe?
“Countering is not fighting. It is trying to distract him by creating noise and movement so that he is not able to shoot accurately.” – Sergeant Clarence Whalen of the Sylvania Township Police
Do conversations about school shooters cause anxiety for both parents and students?
To calm the concerns of skeptical parents, the Sylvania school district hosted forums and parent training. “We are teaching children to be more prepared for the world we live in today… We believe ALICE is worth it because students can use these skills in any situation.” – Adam Fineske, executive director of teaching and learning for Sylvania school district.
Is ALICE Training taught in age appropriate ways?
“Communication with students, in an age appropriate way, can help alleviate some of the anxiety. Open communication from teachers, trainers and parents can help kids process and understand ALICE training.” – Joel Brownfield
How do kids feel after going through training? Is it upsetting?
“Both of my children have been through this training… with my oldest (son, age 11) a few more times than my daughter (age 6). Our school system does an excellent job of spinning it for different age groups. It has empowered them and driven the conversation at home after each drill.” – Kim Barboza, parent with children in the Maumee City School District.
For more information about ALICE, call Lt. Heffernan at 419-245-3217,
or Sergeant Whalen in Sylvania Township at 419-882-2055
General information about ALICE is available at atalicetraining.com
Parents of very young children might want to examine the
book “I’m Not Scared…I’m Prepared,”
written by children’s author Julia Cook
in collaboration with the ALICE Training Institute
Named the Amazon #1 Best Selling Book in School
Counseling Crisis Management for Teachers and Parents,
the picture book teaches elementary age children what to do
if a “dangerous someone” is in their school