Fake news, fake claims: Dispelling school active shooter myths

Posted by on April 18, 2017

“Fake news” became a popular buzz phrase during the 2016 Presidential election. But fake news and fake claims also play a role in some national conversations and misrepresentations about school safety and school active shooters.

Critical reading, analytical thinking and asking probing questions are necessary skills for serious learners of school safety best practices.

Sandy Hook “hoax” conspiracy theorist’s lawyer says it’s all an act

Alex Jones is one of a number of conspiracy theorists who claim the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings were a hoax. Some of the so-called “truthers” claim Sandy Hook was portrayed by actors as part of a conspiracy to promote gun control.

A lawyer for Jones, who is in a divorce proceeding with his wife, just surprisingly said that Jones’ positions are all an act.  According to the lawyer, Jones’ comments stem from him being a performance artist. More on that story linked here.

While fortunately most people shake their heads when presented with such claims, there are some who obviously truly believe it. Again, critical reading, analytical thinking and asking probing questions are necessary skills for serious learners of school safety best practices.

ALICE Training, Run-Hide-Fight and other questionable active school shooter training programs

It was with great interest that I read an article where school officials credited their emergency training following the recent San Bernardino elementary school murder-suicide shootings. The article (entitled, “Training made ‘positive impact’ at San Bernardino school where shooter killed teacher, student”), pointed to school emergency planning training as having a positive impact. The school district’s spokesperson specifically pointed to ALICE training as having made a positive impact.

Interestingly though, the teacher’s aide who removed nine students from the classroom where the shooting occurred was quoted by the reporter as saying she had NOT received training. The fact that the teacher and a student were killed, and another student shot, also raises the question of how ALICE training, which teaches school staff and students to “counter” or attack armed gunmen, actually had a “positive impact.” A critical and analytical reading of this story leaves more questions than answers, especially as it relates to the spokesperson’s comments about ALICE training.

I have dedicated extensive time and discussion, especially since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, to analyzing what a number of national school safety experts, including myself, believe are high-risk, high-liability propositions for addressing school active shooters. These questionable, risky approaches include the “counter” or “fight” components (among other parts) of ALICE Training, Run-Hide-Fight and similar programs in which students and/or school staff are taught to attack heavily armed gunmen.

A detailed analysis that includes discussions of overlooked or glossed-over areas such as age and developmental concerns, emotional and behavioral factors, and children with other special needs is outlined on our web page on ALICE & Run-Hide-Fight Training: Teaching Students to Attack Gunmen. We have further debunked a number of myths and misconceptions in other blog articles including:

We have also read about multiple reports of school staff worker compensation claims, physical injuries and even legal action resulting from the active shooter training alone. Read more in our article on School active shooter drills trigger lawsuit and injury claims.

It is also worth noting that the U.S. Department of Education’s director of safe schools programs has been publicly quoted as saying that the Department does not recommend training students to attack heavily armed gunmen. This statement by David Esquith, the Director of the Department’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students, came despite implied endorsements of ALICE training by some ALICE advocates in their marketing efforts for the program.

In an online emergency management website article, the Houston Mayor’s Office, which created a widely viewed video on Run-Hide-Fight that was originally used for adult business-type settings, also said they never recommend teaching school children to attack gunmen.

Critical reading and thinking, not emotional responses, are a must for understanding school safety

Whether school shooting conspiracy theories or school active shooter program fads, educators and safety officials desiring to understand school safety best practices must exercise critical reading and thinking skills, not emotional responses.

A number of individuals who have taken ALICE or Run-Hide-Fight training have stated it makes them feel “empowered.” Yet there is a difference between “feeling” empowered and actually “being” empowered — and more importantly, being adequately skilled and equipped — for school active shooter situations. There is also a difference between being critical analysts of school safety information versus having a cowboy mentality created by a false sense of security.

Attendees of these school active shooter training programs also often say they like having “options.” But there are differences between “good options” and “bad options.” The best option is to have critical reading, analytical thinking, and asking probing questions as the necessary skills to be serious learners of school safety best practices.

Ken Trump

National School Safety and Security Services

Experts You Can Trust! 

Visit School Security Blog at: www.schoolsecurity.org/blog

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One thought on “Fake news, fake claims: Dispelling school active shooter myths

  1. Tom Agos says:

    “ALICE” is spawned by a for-profit entity seeking to make a pile of bucks off of a pile of dead kids.


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