Psychologist: ALICE training is an ‘overreaction and potentially dangerous’

Posted by on March 29, 2013

A.L.I.C.E. training — teaching students to attack armed gunmen — is “an overreaction and potentially dangerous,” according to Dr. Stephen Brock of the National Association of School Psychologists.

The A.L.I.C.E. program, which stands for Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate, is described as “controversial” in a March 28th article by Mother Jones writer Deanna Pan entitled, “Schools are training second-graders to attack mass shooters.”

An Ohio eight-year-old describes being told to “start throwing stuff” including pencils, chairs, boxes, books, and markers.

Brock, the school psychologist, reportedly says that teaching such tactics may cause unnecessary anxiety and stress for students, especially young kids who are more easily traumatized.

The article provides a link to an A.L.I.C.E. training booklet that recommends rearranging classroom layouts to create a “minefield” and instructs to gain a “tactical advantage” by throwing items.

“While he’s busy ducking and covering his head from our air assault, we can now begin the ground assault,” the booklet continues, calling for “a small number of the attacked to become attackers.”

The Mother Jones article identifies the Burleson (TX) school district as where the program’s creator Greg Crane launched the program until parents reportedly complained about the “Counter” component of teaching kids to attack shooters. The article cites a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article from 2006 indicating the district dropped the “Counter” procedure. It also notes that Crane, a former police officer whose wife was an elementary school principal in the district, was believed to have been “reassigned” from his high school teaching position.

The article also cites an Ohio A.L.I.C.E.-trained 17-year-old student who reportedly was told by her high school teacher that the plan for evacuating her second-story classroom through a window would involve having students tie their jeans together to form a rope.

The student was quoted as calling the idea “weird” because no one would then be wearing pants.

I have long agreed that the concept is “weird” and is a high-risk, high-liability proposition for the many reasons outlined on my web site and in prior blog articles.

It is a good to see that A.L.I.C.E. training and its history are getting a second, more critical look.

Ken Trump

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17 thoughts on “Psychologist: ALICE training is an ‘overreaction and potentially dangerous’

  1. John Henderson says:

    This concept seemed ridiculous to me from the moment I heard of it.

    “While he’s busy ducking and covering his head from our air assault, we can now begin the ground assault,” the booklet continues, calling for “a small number of the attacked to become attackers.”

    To think that an armed intruder with death on his mind is going to be intimidated or affected by young children throwing objects with very little velocity and a series of disorganized desks, is absurd. You cannot teach a child to react like a trained soldier or police officer. They will be overtaken with fear and they will automatically turn to the teacher for guidance, who should be fulfilling the lockdown procedure responsibilities. An armed intruder is going to instantly shoot anyone that stands up, and more particularly anyone that tries to fight back. My military and police training/experience tells me that this training is on the wrong track and schools need to stick with organized lockdown programs that have been designed through the guidance of local law enforcement, fire services and ambulance services. The key to success is not letting an intruder inside the school in the first place through a well planned access control strategy. Needless to say, I am in complete agreement with Ken.

  2. Jim says:

    One question……..
    It’s your kid in that room, the intruder defeated security systems in place, he has already killed and enters the room where YOUR child is. What do you want your child to do? Sit in a corner and hope, or have a set of other options that start as soon as the incident starts? Including the absolute last option of fighting back, my children have always been told to fight back if it is their last option.
    I agree not letting the intruder get into the building is the best way to avoid the situation, but reality dictates dedicated killers find a way to get inside. To ignore further options once the intruder is inside is not only short-sighted but dangerous.

  3. Marybeth Noriega says:

    I have attended an ALICE training course, and all I can say is that if you spend 1 hour in this class you will immediately see that this is so much more than ” teaching children to throw things at an armed intruder”. You will see that this is the BEST option out there to teach our children to have a better chance of survival in the unfortunate event of an active shooter in a school. It is logical, well thought out, well planned, and the goal of this class and the instructors is to give people OPTIONS to use to improve their chance of survival. How can anyone speak out against this training if you don’t know what it’s really all about and you have not attended a class? I guarentee that if you ever have the chance to attend this course, your thinking on this matter will be forever changed. The passion of the instructors who are committed to nothing else but saving lives, is truly amazing. No matter what your preconceived notions are about kids fighting back, you will come away with only one conclusion- ALICE gives people all the information needed to make a decision on how best to respond to an active shooter, and options to use instead of JUST traditional lockdown. It does include lockdown as part of the training, but it also gives you so much more. Hands down this is the best training and information on this subject that is out there. Don’t take my word for it-See for yourself.Research it, take a class, talk to someone who has taken the training, talk to someone who has lost someone in one of these tragic events, then see if you still disagree with the ALICE concept. My bet is that you won’t.

    1. Ken Trump says:

      Dear Marybeth Noriega – Is this actually “Marybeth CRANE Noriega”? Yes “Crane,” as in “Greg Crane” — the Texas businessman who is selling the ALICE training? Or is it just a huge coincidence that you have posted elsewhere (where ALICE has been challenged online) in support of ALICE under “Marybeth Crane Noriega”?

      And is it a coincidence your IP address also comes back to Texas, where ALICE founder Greg Crane and his company are based?

      I don’t mind if you want to come to the defense of ALICE, Marybeth, but why in the world would you feel a need to hide your full identity and affiliation when you post?

      Ken Trump

  4. Cynthia says:

    I agree with John. Wasn’t there a little boy who offered to use his karate skills to beat back the shooter at Sandy Hook? These are little kids. As a grandmother I would prefer to stress self-awareness. I don’t believe our kids will react better by teaching them more fear. Perhaps “stranger danger” programs are more appropriate for them. When I watch little kids on a playground, I don’t see many “sit in a corner and hope’ types. How is a 6 year old going to know what his last resort is? Here are some good reminders:

  5. Marybeth Noriega says:

    Dear Ken,
    I’m not sure why you think I have tried to “hide my identity”, as I used my real name, first and last and email address. The same name I have gone by for over 27 years. If I was trying to hide anything, I think i could have figured out not to use my real name and email. The subject on your blog I believe, was about the ALICE training being “weird” and you were glad it was getting a more “critical look”. I was responding to that. I stand by every word I said- ALICE training is happening all over the country. I was simply saying that unless you have been a part of it, and understand it FULLY, then one should take a closer look at it. All that you focused on in your blog was young children being taught to fight back, and it is so much more than that. I am a professional in the medical field, and I deal with a children’s organization on a regular basis. I took the class to educate myself and to learn about options other than hiding under a desk, as that is not always the best option for survival. This is my opinion, and I will tell it to anyone that asks. I understand fully that not everyone has the same opinion. My point is that unless one has educated themselves fully on what the ALICE program teaches- and I mean all of it, not just the “fighting back”, then one should do that before dismissing it and speaking out against it. It’s all about educating oneself in order to make an informed decision and opinion. Thank you, Marybeth “Crane” Noriega or “Mimi” Noriega ( reserved for close friends and family) or simply Marybeth Noriega which is what I normally go by.

    1. Ken Trump says:

      Dear Ms. Crane-Noriega:

      Thank you for coming clean on the fact that you do have what appears to be an apparent personal/family connection to the Texas businessman, Greg Crane, who is selling the ALICE program.

      I believe in full disclosure when someone with a personal, business, and/or family connection to the man who is selling a training program uses a veiled approach to promote the business on my blog. It’s called ethics, professionalism, and integrity.

      You have used “Crane” in your name in previous postings online to promote ALICE training (how else would I know?). This does create an aura of suspicion as to why you suddenly omitted the “Crane” component of your name and failed to disclosure that connection on my blog. Perhaps you chose to do so because it is commonly known that I am critical of the program teaching children to attack an armed gunman0.

      I “FULLY” understand that ALICE training teaches children to throw things at, and to attack, armed gunmen. I have read the ALICE training booklet which, along with the online videos and those who have attended (and teach) the program, have made this clear. No matter how it is soft-sold with different language or packaged with other elements around it to minimize the attack component, the attack component is the most controversial and questionable part of the ALICE training.

      The blog article did quote a student who called the training “weird” and this is accurate, although this is not the focal point of the blog article you posted on. The focal point was that a reputable school psychologist from a national professional association of school psychologists referred to ALICE training as an “overreaction and potentially dangerous.” He also stated it may cause more anxiety and stress in students. This is much more than just the student who also thought that the training was “weird.”

      Ms. Crane-Noriega, you don’t need to try to explain away your desire to post an info-mercial for ALICE with a vague reference to being a “professional in the medical field” (which could mean anything from a doctor to an medical receptionist) and that you “deal” with a children’s organization on a regular basis (whatever that means). All I ask is that when a person has a personal and/or family tie to a businessman selling a training program, that the person disclose that up-front, not hide it on one blog while she has used the Crane name in others to promote the program.

      Good try, Ms. Crane-Noriega, but I don’t apologize for detecting it and calling you to task on it. I also don’t apologize for bringing to light that other professionals in addition to myself believe ALICE training is “potentially dangerous” and is high-risk for having negative impacts upon children.

      I do, however, find it interesting that you felt a need to defend the program while failing to disclose what appears to be a personal, family connection to the Texas businessman who sells the ALICE training (Greg Crane). Perhaps you and/or Mr. Crane felt a need to defend it after this article reinforces the concerns professionals have about teaching students to attack armed gunmen, the language in the ALICE training booklet that sheds light on the “ground assault” mentality behind the training, and the controversial past of the originator of the program, Mr. Crane.

      Thanks for finally owning up to your full identity, although I would prefer that when you use my blog to try to present a veiled promotion/defense of a program where there is a personal connection, that be fully disclosed up-front the first time.


      Ken Trump

  6. Marybeth Noriega says:

    Dear Mr. Trump,
    We could go back on forth on this forever. The only place I list or use my maiden name is on a social network site and that is so people that may look for me ( old high school friends,etc.) can find me if they don’t know my married name. I’m sure you would agree that is a common practice. I go by Marybeth Noriega, and have for 27 years. Like I said before, if I was trying to hide anything, I would not have used my real name and email- my real name that I use everyday. Most married women do not sign their maiden name along with their married name- i dont sign it in my profession, on a check, or anywhere else. I am Mrs. Marybeth Noriega- not Ms. Crane-Noriega as you use repeatedly. Do you do research on every person that posts on your blog, or only the ones that do not have the same opinions as yourself? As far as I understand it, a blog is a place where people can post their opinions. What I posted was my opinion on an article on your blog. You have your opinion, the psychologist has their opinion, and the teenager that took the class and thought taking jeans and tying them together was weird has their opinion.I was not using your blog to secretly promote anything- do you honestly think your blog would be the place to do that? You posted an article- I posted my opinion on the ALICE program of which I have attended and learned from, and that was that. As far as ” finally owning up to my true identity”, I did that from the beginning, and if I was hiding something, I would not have answered you. And as soon as you made this about my name, I responded.
    My point is that people should have all the facts and all the knowledge to make an informed decision. Yes, the “fighting back” is what people focus on and usually have opinions on. What about the Alert, Lockdown, Inform, and Evacuate portions of ALICE? It is all part of it. Do you teach how to barricade a door using only what you have on you? You posted an article about ALICE…I posted my opinion about the program. I am fully aware about ethics, professionalism and integrity. I use all those things everyday. You have my email, and the IP address- You are free to email me at anytime. Thank you Mr. Trump!

    1. Ken Trump says:

      Dear Ms. Crane-Noriega:

      You are certainly welcome to your opinion. It is my right, and my responsibility, to monitor and moderate the blog as I deem appropriate as the owner of the blog.

      While I do not “do research on every person that posts” on the blog or has a particular opinion, I do monitor the blog for individuals attempting to use the form without full transparency to promote a product or service for which they have a business interest, personal connection, or self-serving agenda. Given your personal connection to the Texas businessman whose company sells the ALICE training, Greg Crane, and that you did not disclose that in your original post, I called you to task on it and put it on the record so our readers would know be aware of the relationship. I could have simply deleted what I believe is largely a self-serving, business promotion for your relative, I decided to allow the post to publish but with an added transparency that you failed to disclose.

      I find your defensiveness to this interesting, although not surprising or unexpected. The article on ALICE was not favorable to the program or to its originator, your relative. Your attempt to defend and promote the program is expected, but your lack of full disclosure and transparency on your relationship with its originator is disappointing.

      ALICE is controversial with its Counter component to teach kids to attack armed gunmen. Alerting, locking down, and evacuation are not new concepts. Inform is questionable and displays a lack of understanding of how preK-12 schools work. So Counter is primarily the only thing about ALICE that is new, and is clearly a high-risk and high-liability controversial proposition.

      I can understand why Mr. Crane is laying low considering the Mother Jones article exposed opposing viewpoints by a representative of a national association of school psychologists, along with exposing the ALICE manual that calls for conducting a “ground assault” after an “air assault.” It also exposes Mr. Crane’s controversial past employment.

      No, I will not go on forever. Your connection to the Texas businessman selling ALICE was documented herein and readers can draw their conclusions from there.

      Thanks again, Ms. Crane-Noriega.

      Ken Trump

  7. Ken, you bring up a very valid point in that a person providing an “endorsement” of the training, is related to the very person who profits from the sales of this extremely controversial training. As you know, I have spent over 25 years as a Florida Law Enforcement Executive, and served on the SWAT Team in South Florida and have spoken on school critical incident response in every state in our nation. I say this because recently I have seen a few brother officers supporting ALICE, only to later find out the are “certified” ALICE Trainers and actually financially benefit from the sale and instruction of ALICE. To that end, like Ms. Noriega (CRANE), I hardly consider that a valid, non-biased reference for ALICE. At the end of the day, the one thing that Mr. Crane still has not done is provide ONE SINGLE EXAMPLE of an ALICE Trained classroom, attacking an armed gunman and saving lives! As such, many schools are sadly providing training that is unproven as effective! In my workshops around the country, I have asked anyone who endorses ALICE from the school side, to advise me of one single school insurance carrier who is underwriting coverage for this training and I have yet to find one! Perhaps what needs to be done is to ask who the insurance providers are for districts that have conducted the training and inquire if their carrier has covered this strategy. Chance to say, many are unaware of it!

  8. Jim says:

    Someone better tell DHS and NASRO, they are teaching/advocating enhanced lock-downs. We want to make sure that insurance carriers and lawyers are on board, because that surely is a way to guarantee our childrens safety.
    It’s funny, this spat really is about who is going to get the biggest piece of the pie. The paradigm is shifting and rightfully so, ALICE is out ahead of this change, you two are not. Quite sad really, it really is about school safety……….

    1. Ken Trump says:

      Actually Ammojim, the DHS materials clearly indicate they are for adult workplace settings, not child-centered organizations in general or schools specifically. And NASRO’s executive director has provided to me in writing a statement that NASRO does not endorse ALICE training, does not endorse teaching students to throw things at armed gunmen, and does not endorse teaching students to attack armed intruders. So are you saying in your message that NASRO’s executive director lied to me? I’ve known Mo for many years and find that hard to believe as he is a gentleman and professional person. You might want to recheck your information on those points.

      There is no “spat…about who is going to get the biggest piece of the pie.” We do not teach what ALICE teaches. In fact, the vast majority of schools do not teach or support what is taught in ALICE. While there are more that are making knee-jerk, feel good reactions to Sandy Hook that include reactions like ALICE, the majority of school administrators I work with shake their heads in disbelief when the ALICE Counter concept is mentioned.

      School insurance carriers and attorneys do play a role in they evaluate risky behavior. If they reject their clients performing ALICE training as a high-risk, high-liability proposition, that speaks volumes. It’s sort of like the workers compensation carrier for a county in Indiana that advised it would not cover the county’s Sheriff’s Department if the sheriff proceeded with his extreme proposition of arming four school staff in each school in his county.

      I am VERY proud to hold a position of reason and to challenge ALICE with no reservations or regrets. And the two of us that you referenced from the comments section are not alone. Obviously from this article, a representative for the nation’s leading association of school psychologists rehjected ALICE as overreaction and potentially dangerous. NASRO has said in writing it rejects ALICE and the concepts taught in its Counter component. The majority of schools in the nation do not subscribe to the ALICE model.

      While the program’s originator, his family representative, and some of his paid instructors obviously support it, their support does not represent a landslide of change nationwide in schools. A close look at the “air assault” and “ground assault” language in the ALICE manual, and the controversial background of the program’s originator, provide great ammo for rejecting the misguidance proposed in ALICE.

      1. Corey Bradley says:

        The problem with all of these arguments is that you are using a small amount of data to support your claims. You are using one psychologist and one student. Since when has that been enough data to make a rational claim. As a 5th grade teacher myself and having gone through the ACTUAL training and not just read the books, this is a much better option. For those schools that have chosen to teach all of the language and all of the steps to the younger kids, they are probably making a mistake. We have made it very simple: the teacher is going to make decisions and the students are expected to follow directions. Yes their will be fear and anxiety, but frankly sitting and waiting is much worse than what this program teaches. During our training, we played out the actual scenarios with an actual intruder using an air-soft gun and I will tell you that it was by far the most nerve racking event I have had the chance to be a part of. When I was able to actual make choices based on the situation I was in, I felt empowered and felt like there was hope to survive. I dont understand why you would think that the “traditional” way brings out less fear than this does. What this does is actually makes the students prepare for the situations, much like we do for tornadoes and fires. This no different. We have also practiced the traditional lockdowns in previous years and this year started the ALICE lockdowns and I see NO difference between the two in terms of the anxiety level.

        Also, if you look into the studies, like our instructors had us do, about the major shootings that have occurred in the US, a vast majority of the deaths have been due to people or students sitting and waiting around. The ones that did something else, such as barricading, fleeing the building, or fighting back were more likely to survive. The idea of taking off the pants may sounds weird right now, but when that kid actually has to use that skill, I am sure his or her tune will change. You really should look at the ALICE training for what it really is: a set of options to help increase the survival rate and not just a single rule that we have to follow. We have options, not procedures.

        To make sure I am not attacked like Marybeth, i have left my name and email. The only way I am associated with the ALICE program is that I have taken it and been certified. Maybe you should think about taking it also before posting an article without a reasonable amount of supporting evidence.


        1. Ken Trump says:

          Hmmmm….interesting you point to using a small amount of data, given the co-founder of ALICE training admits that the “counter” tactic of students attacking gunmen has never been used by an ALICE-trained school class:

          Now that’s selling an emotionally-driven theory based upon no data at all. But perhaps that wasn’t mentioned in the training you attended.

  9. Jim:

    Not sure if you are aware, but the program you suggest from DHS is advocacting their “Run, Hide, Fight” program but NO WHERE do you see it recommended for grade school aged children as ALICE is doing, so that is really not an accurate statement. Further, I have written confirmation from NASRO’s Executive Director that NASRO does not “Endorse” the attacking of an armed gunman by school children, as is taught by ALICE? SO again, I’d have to say your comparison does not really apply here! And while I’m not suggesting that Insurance carriers guarentee our children’s safety, they are in the business of assessing RISKS! The fact that not one insurance carrier has covered ALICE speaks volumes! You also FAIL to address the fact that there is not ONE SINGLE example of an ALICE trained classroom attacking a gunman and saving lives!

  10. Jim says:

    Wow that got a quick response, I posed a question earlier in this thread and nothing but crickets……………..
    I did not state NASRO or DHS endorsed ALICE, I stated they support enhanced lock-downs. Conceptually ALICE is/was ahead of the curve, now others are catching up.
    It’s funny, I was introduced to ALICE by a special education teacher who thought the traditional lock-down did not make sense. He wanted more options for him and his students, this was pre-Sandy Hook.
    This is hardly a knee jerk reaction, it’s an evolution of tactics sorely needed. I argued this after Columbine. Change does not come easy to law enforcement or schools. Enhanced lock-downs are and will be the future from a tactical perspective, no matter what you call them.

    By the way Curt, RUN, HIDE, FIGHT was started by the Houston Police Department, not DHS, FYI.

    1. Ken Trump says:

      AmmoJim, every posting and comment does not get a response in most blogs, this one included. This is especially the case if the issue or question has been already addressed in our blog postings, web site, or related source on the topic. The flaws and risks of ALICE training have been well-documented on the web site and blog, but periodic misstatements, inaccurate information, etc. warrant some responses in the comments.

      The term “enhanced lockdowns” has been used by the Texas businessman selling the ALICE training in the promotion of his services. We recognize it is done to sugarcoast and soft-sell to parents, the media, and others the fact that ALICE involves teaching children to throw things at, and to attack, armed gunmen. The Texas salesman apparently learned that being transparent with parents and the media results in a rejection of the Counter measure of ALICE when his own school district in which he briefly worked rejected the concept after major public/media scrutiny and rejection. Now the phrase “enhanced lockdowns” has been used interchangably with ALICE when it fits the purposes of ALICE training.

      Unless, of course, you are stating here on the record that “enhanced lockdowns” does not include teaching to throw things at and attack armed gunmen. Is that what you’re saying, AmmoJim, that “enhanced lockdowns” is completely different from ALICE training? If so, please define the distinction and confirm that “enhanced lockdowns” does not teach the Counter measure because the Texas businessman’s ALICE manual used in a workshop he presented under the guise of “enhanced lockdowns” includes what is referred to as an “air assault” and “ground assault” with the attack component included.

      You may want to check previous posts. I don’t see where Curt said DHS started the Run, Hide, Fight program. You actually were pushing the idea that DHS and NASRO advocated these models, and as Curt accurately pointed out, DHS and NASRO do not endorse ALICE training or the attack concepts, according to their executive director. Again, are you stating that NASRO’s executive director lied to us and they are presenting this when we were told they were not doing so? You seemed to duck that question.

      While I can’t imagine the federal government would accept the responsibility and liability for recommending that school children and teachers attack armed gunmen, anything is possible especially with the current Administration. Although I hope they are more prudent by not setting such a federally-endorsed standard for school children, I can only imagine the backlash they will receive from the education and other child-advocacy agencies if the President and Secretary of Education do so.

      Those of us with actual experience in preK-12 school safety see the high-risk, high-liability of ALICE (or enhanced lockdowns if you want to sugarcoat ALICE training) and fortunately the vast majority of school administrators roll their eyes and laugh-off such a ridiculous proposition. There will always be those who jump on the fad and trends of the day, in knee-jerk reaction when their emotions are preyed upon by those like the Texas businessman selling ALICE. Those with some experience and perspective have seen the fads come and go, and know that what may seem popular to some today risks being their downfall tomorrow.

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