A year ago I found myself lying on the floor in my son’s high school auditorium trying to hide under the seats. There were a few hundred others there with me; parents, teachers, administrators all huddled together waiting to see if we had hidden well enough. We hadn’t. All the people on my row felt the sting of a NERF bullet. We were still lucky. This was only part of a presentation of the ALICE training. We would go on to learn what we should have done first instead; just like our children are being taught in their schools.
What Does ALICE stand for?
In response to recent school shootings and in an attempt to better prepare our schools in the event of a worst-case scenario like the one in Parkland, Florida, the Alachua County Public School District has adopted the ALICE program. The ALICE training institute describes the program as one that empowers individuals to participate in their own survival using proactive response strategies in the face of violence. It was developed so that anyone can learn to use these strategies whether they are young, old, male, female and whether or not they have any police or military training. The disclaimer is, of course, that there are no guarantees for anyone in an emergency situation such as an active shooter, but the more one is prepared, the better chances of survival.
If you have children in public schools you may have heard about the required monthly ALICE drills. Texts, e-mails and written information is sent regularly to notify parents that their child’s school will participate. Some of your children may even have experienced fear about these drills and you may still have questions about what exactly the program is teaching your children to do in the face of a worst-case scenario. Corporal Logan Mosher, SRO (School Resource Officer) with the Gainesville Police Department and certified ALICE Instructor explains that the ALICE program is a “Fluid, non- linear process, meaning it isn’t necessarily step-by-step.” School personnel are trained on the ALICE process, but aren’t told exactly what they must do in any given situation. This is because active shooter situations are always varied. For example a teacher on the playground will have a different response than one in the cafeteria or in their classroom based on the information they have at the moment about where the threat is. This is why it is important for students as well as staff to practice regularly. Officer Mosher assures parents that he and all administrators are trained and assigned specific responsibilities to oversee their campus during an emergency.
Officer Mosher stresses that information is the most important part. “Concise and clear descriptions and location can increase the survivability for everyone,” Mosher says. “The first person to see something and say something allows others to react quickly and appropriately.” He cautions that the role of the SRO will change in these situations. “My role will be to find the threat and stop it, Mosher emphasizes, “I won’t be the same person the students are used to interacting with everyday. That’s why it’s crucial for school personnel to practice; so that they are ready to make decisions about what is the best response in a variety of scenarios.”
According to information from the School Board, by law, all students must receive age-appropriate ALICE training. Mosher reiterates “ALICE isn’t something that just works in schools, this is training that can be used in any active shooter situation; movie theaters, malls, etc.” And while it may be unsettling for us as parents to think about, this is a new reality.