During the 2013-14 school year, Woodmore staff and students will be given the tools to protect themselves and save their own lives during a violent situation through ALICE training.
ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. The main goal of the system is to help students and teachers feel empowered and prepared to do whatever is necessary to stay alive when a threat is present. It stresses that traditional lockdown is inappropriate during imminent or life-threatening danger. Instead, those involved are encouraged to run, throw books, barricade the doors and, in an extreme situation, swarm the attacker and disarm him or her.
The company that developed the system insisted that a “good school” was responsible for not only education, inspiration and social engagement, but also safety for its students.
Principal Jim Kieper doesn’t want students to start throwing books just yet. He stressed it has been a long and carefully planned process for him, and it will be the same for Woodmore students.
“I was exploring this while at Whitmer,” he said. “Most Ottawa County schools already use it.”
He wants to make sure that students are fully informed.
“It will take a lot of preparation and trust,” Kieper said. Students will eventually have to go through training and simulations, and he wants to make sure they feel comfortable before subjecting them to stressful situations.
Before school started, Kieper and the staff went through a simulation with the Elmore and Woodville police during which blank shots were fired to replicate the stress and fear involved. Kieper was surprised by how well the system worked.
First, the building went into a normal lockdown while a “shooter” (armed with an airsoft gun) roamed the building and shot at the easy targets.
“I actually got ‘shot’ three times,” he said.
After that, they were encouraged to counter, barricade, and evacuate if possible. How did this system fare for Kieper?
“I wasn’t shot at all that time,” he said, smiling.
Community and student support will be a big factor. Clearly, this could be a controversial subject, but Kieper wants people to know that the system is based on defense, not offense. A common misconception, no student or teacher is encouraged to go after the attacker or to “be a hero.” The main goal is to increase survivability and decrease fear.
Some students, including senior Ali Smathers, are welcoming this new approach.
“Lockdown is pretty much someone choosing your fate for you,” Smathers said. “I like that I have the choice now.”
Unfortunately, support may take time and education on the subject. Kieper said that even some teachers were against the system until they experienced the training.
The future for ALICE is bright, but until information is given to the community and support is gathered, it is still in the works for Woodmore.
(Woodmore High School student Molly Post wrote this story for Window To Woodmore, a student publication, and it is reprinted here with permission. Hack, from the small-town city Erding, in the southern part of Germany near Munich, is the only exchange student at Woodmore this year.)