Crime, Education

SHS’s more proactive approach to school intruder

SHS Principal Trevan Walker, in his office following the ALICE tabletop training exercise. Heidi Zemach photo.
SHS Principal Trevan Walker, in his office following the ALICE tabletop training exercise. Heidi Zemach photo.

By Heidi Zemach for SCN-

Seward High School Principal Trevan Walker’s voice came over the school loudspeaker Tuesday afternoon, announcing that there would be a tabletop training for the unlikely event of an armed intruder in the high school. He asked all students without classes to report to the library. A few minutes later, his voice calmly asked every teacher to discuss with their students what they would do if they were aware of an intruder at the west entrance of the building.  Five minutes later, he repeated the message for an intruder in the library. There were four scenarios in all.

The tabletop exercise was to make students aware that the old ideas for protecting and reacting to an intruder or intruders has changed, and putting them in the new mindset of how to best react in self-defense said Walker. Until now, they had practiced a different approach.

It was part of a new ALICE training, being instituted in all Kenai Peninsula Schools, and many schools across the U.S., ALICE stands for actions such as Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate, and each encompasses several strategies. 900 different schools, universities, businesses, hospitals and churches have taken the ALICE training since 2004. Alaska and Hawaii have been the last states to receive the school based trainings.

Students at ALICE training practice barricading the door against intruders. ALICE Training Institute photo credit.
Kenai Peninsula’s ALICE training last year, as educators practice barricading the door against intruders. ALICE Training Institute photo credit.

 

 

 

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Putting out a “Code Red” over the PA system, getting everyone into their classrooms, away from the windows, locking the doors, turning off the lights and waiting for the police to arrive and help, which was the old system of training,  isn’t nearly enough, said ALICE president and founder, Greg Crane, from Texas, who came to Soldotna last year to personally conduct and oversee the training for Kenai Peninsula principals, in-schools police officers, area police and state troopers, along with his school administrator wife, Lisa. School shootings from Columbine High School, and others in recent years have demonstrated that that students and teachers who cooperated and died, might otherwise have escaped.  In most school shootings, Crane told SCN, there isn’t enough time to wait for police to arrive and take control. Those inside the school could be making one another aware of the intruders’ location, barricading themselves in, or running outside the building.

“Securing in place does work, it’s an obvious option should we come under threat. But breached doors happened at Sandy Hook, and even prior to Sandy Hook. That was not the first time a locked door was opened by a bad guy,” Crane said. “We’ve educated girls as young as eight that she has plenty of options, including screaming and running away when a stranger offers her to get into his car,” he said. “So why tell a school full of children to sit quietly and wait while a killer stalks through their school, shooting kids in their classrooms?”

In the SHS tabletop drill, students and teachers figured out whether it was safe to run outside given the location of the intruder, how and whether to barricade the doorway, and what to do if the intruder was nearby or came into the classroom. Options included moving around, throwing things, overpowering him and more. Typically, trained police only manage to shoot their moving targets 25-percent of the time, and 85-90 percent of people they shoot survive, Crane said. But in school shootings, with cooperative students awaiting rescue from outside, the number is much higher.

 

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