Two years ago this week, our community was baffled by the shootings that took place in Kalamazoo. From this experience, many of us realized that no community is immune from gun violence. Additionally, with the amount of gun-related violence on the rise, it is vital to have established policies on what to do in the event of an active shooter situation, especially in schools.
The school shootings at Columbine High School in 1999, Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, and Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this month, claimed the lives of 58 people combined and left 36 more injured. The alarming statistics of gun violence in schools conveys a need to do more than turn off the lights and hide in the corner during a dangerous situation.
Recently many schools, including Portage Northern, have adopted the ALICE lockdown system in place of the traditional turn off the lights and hide in the corner style of lockdown. According to alicetraining.com, the official ALICE Training website, 4,200 K-12 schools have adopted their evacuation policies.
ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Counter, Evacuate. ALICE encourages people in case of an situation of active danger to alert themselves of their surroundings, lockdown the area by locking and barricading doors, inform others of vital details such as the shooter’s location, countering the shooter in order to decrease their shooting, and to remove yourself from the situation by evacuating. What makes ALICE different from the traditional lockdown is that following the steps of ALICE allows the victims of active shooter situations to take control over the situation and not be passive bystanders.
Portage Northern School Resource Officer Nathan Slavin says, “ALICE will help protect students by giving them (and staff) permission to make life saving decisions based on the information they have at the time of a threat.”
While having these protocols in place, practicing them is even more vital. “The ability to respond effectively in a crisis situation is improved when the roles and responsibilities of all partners are understood,” explains Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in School Safety Task Force: Recommendations and Resources.
In order to prevent an event from turning from bad to catastrophic, swift action must be taken. This is observable in the Mattoon High School shooting that took place last September in Illinois. In this situation, the swift and instinctual actions of a teacher, who disarmed the shooter, was able to stop another national tragedy.
Having discussions about what to do in such an event will make preventing such catastrophes more attainable. Following the Parkland shooting, PNHS sent home this announcements to parents via Skyward:
If you’re thinking about the safety of schools in today’s environment, you are not alone. We hear and share your concerns, and have plans in place to alleviate threats. PPS uses an intruder training system called ‘ALICE’. We encourage you to check out the ALICE website. They even have an individual training element that might be helpful to view. We consistently drill and walk through scenarios with staff and students to ensure we are prepared and ready in case of an emergency. Our staff training was recently featured in a story News 3. You can watch that feature here. Regarding our daily steps to control building access, the main office is the only point of entry during the day except for the monitored back door for students that are exiting to go to off-site programs or to the Doghouse for class. All other exterior doors are locked and classroom doors are locked after class begins.