Districtwide ALICE training keeps buildings and staff prepared
February 11, 2019
Keeping students safe in classrooms and school buildings has always been a top priority for the district. This school year, the district has taken a different approach to school safety than in years past, with the adoption of the highly successful ALICE program.
ALICE, an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate, is a proactive response initiative to handle violent threats in public places, like school buildings. According to their website at www.alicetraining.com, ALICE is a highly successful nationwide program that has been introduced in all 50 states, with over one million individuals trained.
4,200 K-12 school districts nationwide have completed ALICE training, along with 950 higher education institutions. Police departments, businesses, government agencies, houses of worship and healthcare facilities have also received training.
“Our adoption of ALICE represents our emphasis on keeping students as safe as possible through the use of research based strategies,” Charles Smialek, Ph.D., Superintendent explained. “It’s a horrible reality that we even have to consider such concepts of ‘active shooters’ in schools. But, adopting ALICE will help us to be as prepared as possible in the event of an incident.”
“Our number one job is actually keeping our student and our staff safe in our schools,” Bill Greene, Parma City School District Chief Operating Officer said. “ALICE is on the forefront there. It’s been very well received by the staff, and very well received by the local law enforcement that we have been working with. It’s the way to go now.”
One of the previous models for school districts to respond to a threat was with a building lockdown, as endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education in 2007. However, in the wake of tragedies like Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech, the Department of Education spent considerable resources to research alternatives, updating safety protocols and recommendations.
“A lot of surrounding districts have been trained in ALICE,” Tiffany Stropko, Assistant Director of Human Resources added. “Having the parent lens, knowing that my kids have some (ALICE) training and they are not just hiding underneath a cabinet or in a closet, they actually have a location they can go. They have these drills and they are very similar to fire and tornado drills, in the sense you have different scenarios.”
One of the most important aspects of ALICE is the ability to provide options for individuals. While no single response method will fit a threat of violence, ALICE provides key information and resources to those who may find themselves in harms way.
“Lockdown doesn’t mean you have to stay locked down,” Paul Barens, Parma Schools Interim Supervisor of Safety and Security said. “Lockdown is situational. It means if you can safely get out, then get out. So, it means if someone is going to get in here, then how am I going to get out?”
Parma City School District’s ALICE training is funded through a $57,000 grant provided by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. On November 6, 2018, PCSD staff members from throughout the district received initial training on ALICE during an in-service day.
In mid-January, 50 staff members, including each building principal along with individual building representatives, received in-depth training on the program. The goal is to have these 50 individuals become trainers, to then train all staff members throughout the district. In addition, on March 15, 2019 staff members will be required to engage in a 45 minute online training session.
“They (staff) liked the real-life scenarios,” Stropko said. “I think they liked that they are going to be empowered to do something. I also think they liked to talk through the different scenarios...ALICE provides answers to some questions as opposed to just hiding in a room.”
An obvious component of ALICE is also training students. With money left over from the initial grant, which is estimated to be approximately $12,000, the district will purchase educational materials for students. One example given on the ALICE website is an age-appropriate book entitled “I’m Not Scared, I’m Prepared”, a book highlighting how students can protect themselves.
“We would also like to take our most vulnerable doors and put 3M safety film coating on them,” Greene expressed. “It wouldn’t make the glass bulletproof, but it would keep the glass from falling out which would allow someone to just walk right in.”
“I think everyone has realized that it’s better to do something, than nothing,” Barens added. “That’s what ALICE is. It gives you options, instead of just one.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Staff receive ALICE training as part of the November 6 professional learning day. All PCSD staff members received this initial training, with more trainings scheduled this school year.