In response to the Sandy Hook massacre, schools across the nation are taking different approaches to train and protect their students from possible future attacks. Wayne LaPierre, an NRA spokesman, recently suggested that armed guards should be present in every school nationwide. After his statement, many schools jumped on the bandwagon. An Ohio school board approved arming their janitors and a ruling in South Dakota permits teachers to carry a concealed weapon. But perhaps one of the most controversial precautions schools are taking is teaching their students to not run and hide, but instead to fight back in the event of a shooter attack.
The practice of students and teachers fending off a gunman conflicts with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DOHS) protocol for responding to such situations. According to the DOHS, the best response for students is to either hide or flee and only use aggressive tactics as a last resort. However, after a year marred by mass shootings, the idea of teaching children more aggressive tactics to use during an attack is gaining attention.
One particular strategy that is growing in popularity since Sandy Hook is A.L.i.C.E. (alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate). The program is a student response training program, created by Greg Crane who is a former SWAT officer and teacher from Texas. Crane’s controversial program, launched in 2000, is much different than traditional “lockdown” procedures. A.L.i.C.E. teaches children and adults response tactics such as building barricades, creating “minefields” by rearranging furniture within a classroom, and jumping out of windows to escape in the instance of an attack. The program also teaches students to use force if all else fails by throwing books, pencils and anything else within reach to distract the gunman.
Critics are wary of these modern training approaches and claim that these alternative methods cause liability and safety issues for the students and the schools. In addition, opponents claim that talking to children, especially the younger crowd, about violence response raises some concerns.
“A.L.i.C.E. may be well intended, but it’s not well thought-out. You can’t get a group of middle school kids to simultaneously agree on chicken nuggets or pizza in the cafeteria for lunch, much less make a split-second decision to start throwing items at an armed intruder,” Mother Jones reports Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, as saying.
However, some think more aggressive training approaches are the route schools need to take to ensure students know what to do in the case of a shooting. Tom Kling, who was quoted by Mother Jones, is the father of a child who attends school in Middletown, Ohio. He thinks the alternative training methods being introduced are a “better-than-nothing” approach. “I was talking to my 14-year-old about it. One of his teachers said, ‘Go after him. Kick his butt.’ I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Really? This guy has got a gun!'” Kling said. He adds, “It is scary when you think about what actually happened [in Newtown] and you think, ‘What would my kid do?'”
Krysta Loera is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.