5 ALICE training myths: Students attacking armed intruders

Posted by on November 11, 2012

As A.L.I.C.E. training advocates work to sell their program to school boards and superintendents, five myths continue to circulate about the program and its concept of teaching children to attack armed intruders.

A.L.I.C.E. stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. The “counter” component of teaching school students to throw objects at armed intruders and to physically attack them is garnering more media attention. Reporters, parents, and school board members also appear to be asking some tougher questions on the implications and implementation of the program.

Five myths about A.L.I.C.E. training occur in various news stories and other conversations on the program:

  • Myth 1:  A.L.I.C.E. training for schools is endorsed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and/or other federal agencies.

Reality: No written evidence has been found of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Department of Education, or any other federal agency endorsing the A.L.I.C.E. program specifically, or the concept of teaching preK-12 school children to “counter” or attack armed intruders in general.  DHS has a booklet on active shooters which is focused on a workplace violence context and adult-oriented settings. There is no reference in this document, including in its section on last-resort efforts of physically responding to active shooters, about school-specific settings or the application of the booklet’s content to children. To suggest that A.L.I.C.E. training is specifically “endorsed” by DHS, and to extrapolate what DHS has published for adult workplace settings to also apply to child-centered preK-12 school settings, is a misrepresentation of DHS’s materials and is misleading.

  • Myth 2:  The A.L.I.C.E. training program is research-based.
    • Reality: No formal, independent academic or other research can be found on this specific program. No research is cited in the A.L.I.C.E. Training staff booklet (copyright 2007) in circulation as recently as at least 2010. If such research exists, its advocates should cite and produce it.


  • Myth 3: A.L.I.C.E. training is age and developmentally-appropriate.
    • Reality: The aforementioned A.L.I.C.E. Training Staff Booklet makes no mention of age and developmental implementation issues. Advocates for A.L.I.C.E. training often waffle when pressed on age and developmental appropriateness, typically “caving in” and saying that they will only teach the “counter” (attacking armed intruders) component to middle and/or high school age students. Excluding certain grade levels and ages of students does not automatically equate to “age and developmental appropriateness” for the remaining students who are trained.  The reality is that all students, preK-12, have age and developmental considerations different from adults.


  • Myth 4: A.L.I.C.E. training is inclusive of, and applicable to, students with special needs.
    • Reality: As noted above, the A.L.I.C.E. training Staff Booklet does not delineate implementation for special needs students. Is the answer to critics’ concerns simply that special needs student will just be excluded from A.L.I.C.E. training? If so, how will that be implemented? And how many students have special needs — physically-challenged, behavioral disorders, autism, medically-fragile, etc.?


  • Myth 5: A.L.I.C.E. training has a history of proven effectiveness on the “counter” component in schools.
    • Reality: No published information has been found documenting cases specifically where A.L.I.C.E. training has been provided in a school and the “counter” component was subsequently employed in a specific incident that clearly saved more lives than the number of lives saved using current methods and best practices.  “Would be” and “could be” claims by A.L.I.C.E. advocates are theories and opinions, and should not be represented (especially in news stories) as “research” and “demonstrated effectiveness.”

I have written extensively on my web site and in a series of blog articles about the implementation considerations, risks, and potential safety and legal liability posed by A.L.I.C.E. training.  The above myths and misrepresentations further suggest that while perhaps well-intended, A.L.I.C.E. training may not be well-thought-out by many preK-12 school leaders and program advocates.

Ken Trump

Visit School Security Blog at:  www.schoolsecurityblog.com

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5 thoughts on “5 ALICE training myths: Students attacking armed intruders

  1. Chuck Hibbert says:

    Great points about A.L.I.C.E. As you know, I don’t have a problem with this type of training for adults, but as a gradparent of a special needs child who could not possibly comprehend the aspect of “counter”, I have concerns. In addition, Ken, you and I have seen too many schools which have not yet master the basics of locking down schools and the classroom. Much work still to be done. Keep up the fight to keep us focused on fundamentals of protecting all children preK-12.

  2. Dear Mr. Trump:

    The ALICE Training ought to be a huge red flag for schools, especially in the liability arena. While much of what is contained in the ALICE training is already in use by a great many schools across the nation (as part of their already existing emergency management Plan, not as part of the ALICE Training), the often not mentioned part of the ALICE training that draws the most controversy is the part that involves about an hour-long part on teaching the students to engage in a coordinated, times attack on an armed intruder in the classroom. As a 25+ Year Law Enforcement Executive and National Speaker on School Safety, law enforcement agencies train for weeks and months on coordinated, timed response attacks to armed suspects, and now in less then an hour we are going to show a group of 7th graders how to attack a gunman? This also implies that every person who enters a classroom armed is going to kill students Columbine style, which school safety experts know is simply not the case. In many cases where an armed intruder entered a classroom, the intruder has left without firing the weapon. Has 4-5 students tried to attack the armed person, the results may have been much different. Again, parents should be very concerned over this training being taught to their child and the school itself should absolutely review this training tactic for students with both the legal staff and insurance carrier as both may wisely decline.

    Curtis S. Lavarello
    Executive Director
    School Safety Advocacy Council

  3. Jim says:

    We should be worrying about liability in a critical incident, especially one involving children? As a 25+ Law Enforcement Officer with extensive tactical experience and training, I could not disagree with you more. Tactics evolve with circumstances, an active response in a critical incident would save lives. The alternative of locking doors, hunkering down, and hoping for the best is not an acceptable tactic. Is ALICE perfect, no it’s not. Is any tactic perfect?
    In many situations the traditional lock-down has been a failure, COSTING lives.
    We have evolved our active shooter tactics according to the threat(s), why shouldn’t schools evolve theirs as well.
    I could give a hoot about liability over safety, you know (or you may not) that ANY active shooter scenario is going end up in litigation. ALICE does make the re-unification process an administrative nightmare, but given the circumstances of an active shooter, do we really care about the administrative process?
    Rather than throwing stones, maybe collaberation would be in order for the safety of all.
    I disagree with Greg on some tactical issues, he’s a strong willed guy, but his concepts are sound and ased in common sense reality.

  4. Thomas Sexton says:

    I am a thirty year law enforcement veteran, parent of a special needs child and along with currently having two children in school at the moment. I have a very active interest in the safety of children attending school. I have attended numerous courses and found that NONE are perfect and NONE will every be.

    With that said, I am a firm believer in using all the resources available to keep as many children alive as possible during a hostile event. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that current methods are really not keeping up with the times. As for lock downs…great concept unless the it fails. As a parent, not a law enforcement officer, I examined many different methods available, ALICE included. My main concern is who leads the children when the adult is no longer in the picture.

    The ALICE program does not “teach” children to attack an armed suspect, rather it shows them a way to survive when all else fails. It is a last resort option between death and a slim chance for survival. Is it a good option? No, it is not but when the option is death…

    I asked three children from three different schools what they had been taught to do if an armed gunman came into their room. All three said the same thing….nothing. All three said they would hide or get under their desk.. I asked them what they were supposed to do if the teacher was not there. None of them had an answer. Did I mention that all three students come from schools with a security plan that had been designed by “experts”? Folks, this is a sad situation!

    From what I see, everybody claiming to be an “expert” in the field is also working for a company whose goal is to turn a profit. If everybody truly had child safety in mind, everybody would sit down and work out a great plan without thought to cost or who is going to be king of the hill. No one will have all the answers but together we can do a much better job.

    I agree with Jim. If you are thinking about liability issues over safety, you are placing a business decision over a child safety and that, my friends, is a not crime…it is a sin!

    1. Ken Trump says:

      Thanks for sharing your opinion, Mr. Sexton.

      I certainly agree that no strategy is perfect. If it was, we would not need law enforcement as we would have perfected public safety. Sadly, we have not been able to do so.

      ALICE actually DOES “teach” children to attack an armed suspect. The company’s 2007 staff booklet states that after throwing objects, “While he’s busy ducking and covering his head from our air assault, we must now begin the ground assault.” If that isn’t attacking, I don’t know what is.

      If the three children from different schools come from schools with security plans that had been “designed by experts,” I’d be concerned too. Plans should not be “plan in a can” the way plans are made. Experts can train, review and provide input, help test with tabletops, critique exercises, etc., but should not actually write the plan for the district.

      Yes, we who provide professional services actually get paid. It would be wonderful if everyone “would sit down and work out a great plan without thought to cost,” but most professioals providing services (plumbers, lawyers, etc.) are paid for their services. While law enforcement is a very rewarding career, I don’t know too many officers who have worked for free. In fact, many are quite aggressive at pursuing as much overtime and side job money as they can get. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to pay taxes to fund public safety, one of the greatest percentages of most local government budgets, if officers would just get together, work out a public safety plan, and not worry about getting paid or who is king of the shift?

      Liabilities come in many forms. One is the loss of life or injury — a safety liability. Others are legal liabilities — the costs for those who poorly, negligently, wrecklessly, etc. act or fail to act.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.


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