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Springfield district considering A.L.I.C.E. training

9/20/2012 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

LAKEMORE — A.L.I.C.E. may be coming to class at Springfield Local Schools.

A.L.I.C.E. is a crisis training program that stands for Alert, Lockdown, Information, Counter and Evacuation, according to Springfield Police Department School Resource Officer Jim McKnight, who presented an outline of the program to the Springfield Local Schools Board of Education Sept. 18.

The program, created by two Texas law enforcement officers soon after the 1999 Columbine High School shootings occurred in Colorado, asks participants to think about what they would do in crisis situations involving a shooter and encourages counter measures under certain conditions.

“This is something we don’t like to hear about, but we do need to plan for it,” said McKnight. “Akron General [Health System], Kent State [University] and Green [Local] Schools have already adopted this program.”

McKnight acknowledged the program is somewhat controversial because it teaches students and staff to fight back, but he also said that approach is to be used only when all else fails.

He compared the A.L.I.C.E. program to fire-prevention efforts in the early 1960s, stating the last fire to cause student and staff deaths occurred in 1958 and was followed by an aggressive effort incorporating fire drills, the installation of fire alarms and other safety efforts. McKnight said since that time, there have been no deaths due to fires in schools, and the same aggressive approach to shooters in schools is needed now.

McKnight said until recently, everyone was taught to hide from a shooter in a locked room and wait for police to arrive. He also said most such incidents are over within 10 minutes. He added that now, law enforcement officials are advocating a different approach.

“Don’t stay in the danger zone. Get out of harm’s way. Preparing for violent intruders by hiding is not enough,” he said. “We need to give teachers and students more options to empower them to save their lives.”

McKnight suggested a public address system should be used to inform people in the building where the shooter is, and knowing that, staff and students in areas of the building away from the intruder could evacuate the building instead of waiting for the shooter to find them.

McKnight said this course of action should be the first and is the safest response to an armed shooter.

He also said simple language, not codes, should be used to communicate within the building to prevent miscommunication.

If students and staff find themselves to be in the same area as the shooter, they should move into a room, lock it and barricade the door with furniture, according to McKnight.

“Only when confronted [by the shooter] should staff and students move aggressively and proactively to counter and distract,” he stressed.

McKnight suggested throwing something at the shooter’s face, making noise or running about. Another film clip he showed suggested students and staff should collectively attack the shooter. McKnight stated that hiding under a desk is now perceived as an opportunity for the shooter to more easily kill those in hiding.

Superintendent Bill Stauffer agreed staff and then students should be trained to deal with armed intruders coming into a school.

“This is a common-sense approach,” he added.

Stauffer said the A.L.I.C.E. program would be on the agenda at the next board meeting to allow board members to vote on adopting the program.

“This program is something our kids need,” said Board President Cindy Collins.

“This is meant not to scare students but to empower them,” added board member Neal Hess.

In other business, the board adopted the following:

• an appropriations budget for 2012-13, representing a 2.6 percent increase in spending over last year;

• to deposit $900,000 in federal stimulus funds to be received annually for 17 years;

• to release bid packages in connection with the construction of the new school for furnishings/equipment and technology; and

• a three-year print agreement with COMDOC at the monthly rate of $750, which is saving the district $4,000 to $5,000 compared to previous contracts, according to district officials.

Also at the school board meeting, Stauffer announced tours of the new building are now being offered to staff, and the public will be allowed to visit the new building during an open house, probably next August. Also, tours of the high school will be offered to the public before it is demolished in early June.

The next regular Springfield Local Schools Board of Education meeting is scheduled to take place Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. in the Administration Building, 2960 Sanitarium Road.

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