ALICE training and run-hide-fight: Are students and educators risking injury?

Posted by on October 29, 2013

If trainees and trainers are being injured during A.L.I.C.E. training and run-hide-fight programs, should we be worried about children being hurt when educators and students are taught to throw things at, and to attack, armed gunmen? Are principals, superintendents and school boards aware of, and prepared to take on, this responsibility and potential liability?

Questions about student and teacher safety continue to mount as some schools deploy questionable training and drill tactics in which children and teachers are instructed attack an armed gunman in their schools. Such training often involves the controversial “Counter” component of the A.L.I.C.E. Training program, which stands for Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate, or the fight component of the run-hide-fight model.

An Ohio elementary principal reported breaking her shoulder at an A.L.I.C.E. Training session earlier this year. In an unsolicited message to me from her school district email, the principal stated:

“I recently broke my shoulder during ALICE training. As an elementary principal, this is not the sort of thing one would expect during professional development.”

A training officer in Missouri was reportedly knocked into a door jamb, rebounded off of it and was nearly unconscious with a laceration on his nose bridge during A.L.I.C.E. training. In an online post-training survey for a Missouri school district that conducted A.L.I.C.E. training, the respondent commented:

“The force Mr. XXXXX’s blow was of such intensity that the training officer was knocked into the door jamb and rebounded off of it and out the door into the hall. Nearly unconscious and bleeding from a laceration on the bridge of the nose it was several minutes before he could compose himself and move onto the next classroom of teachers where he informed them that, “The role playing is just an exercise”!  [Participant’s name was substituted with X’s for purposes of this article.]

Another evaluation response stated:

“The presenters were knowlegdable but were not very organized and did not give clear instructions. After the officer was hurt our training was discontinued. They did not finish the training.”

Yet another respondent complained about the lack of information given up-front to educators as to what to expect in this training session. Concerns were expressed about subjecting pregnant teachers or educators in their senior years to such training without them knowing in advance what could occur.

While a number of participants evaluated parts of the training positively, numerous respondents also reported the presentation as being disorganized and not well presented.

Forget for a moment the serious implementation considerations associated with attacking an armed gunmen in a real life situation. The above revelations alone simply leave me wondering how many others have been injured just during such training programs, and if superintendents, school boards and principals recognize the responsibility and liability they are assuming in authorizing such programs.

It also begs us to ask if teachers, principals and support staff are unaware of the potential injury risks of such training, have parents received full disclosure about these risks to their children who may be forced to participate in such school-sponsored programs?

Established, experienced school safety experts, psychologists and others from around the nation have expressed serious reservations and concerns about the theory of teaching educators and students to attack armed gunmen. We believe such instruction provides educators and students with a false sense of security and puts them at risk for greater harm.

Fortunately, the vast majority of superintendents, school boards and principals are rejecting this type of training. They are instead focusing on training and school safety strategies that are aligned with proven, reliable and tested best practices. We’re happy to be working with these school leaders who are focused on the “how” of implementing meaningful strategies, not just the “wow!” factor associated with the latest fad stemming from high-profile tragedies.

Ken Trump

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