How can schools best prepare for an active shooter situation?
- A podcast and article produced by American Public Media in partnership with The Hechinger Report shares the thought processes in the mind of school leaders in Ames, IA, who plan to use ALICE training to teach elementary school students to respond during an active shooter scenario.
- ALICE Training (which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate) has been used in 3,700 K-12 schools and 900 universities since the early 2000s, and though the U.S. Department of Education has supported teaching adults to fight back in the past, it has not recommended training students.
- Some critics feel that the trauma and anxiety such training can cause is not worth the potential benefit, especially when the chances that a child will be killed at school are less than one in a million, according to statistics from the Bureau of Justice.
In the aftermath of Parkland, school leaders across the county are having to deal with the issues of both real and perceived safety at schools. It is true that mass school shootings are rare and that the odds of a child being shot at school are low. However, it is also true that violent acts at school are more common than anyone would wish. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2015-16 school year, 9% of schools reported at least one student threat of physical attack with a weapon.
School leaders want to protect students and must also mitigate parents' fears that their child will be a victim. While many school districts practice lockdown drills and many law enforcement agencies practice responses to active shooter scenarios, most schools do not go as far as training elementary students, even preschoolers, to attack the “bad guy” in an active shooter scenario. Schools that do this training usually allow parents to make the final decision regarding training, but it is still questionable whether such training will empower young students or make them view school as a potential battleground.
Responses like this by school officials are not new. Many people over the age of 55 still remember the “Duck and Cover" drills students went through at school to learn how to respond to a potential imminent air raid. Whether these drills were traumatic can be debated. But they certainly were memorable and, in the end, completely unnecessary. While school leaders need to take appropriate precautions to prevent school tragedies, they need to consider the age appropriateness of such precautions, as well.
- The Hechinger Report Is the trauma of training for a school shooter worth it?