Acts of terror such as 9/11 and Columbine have sparked fear in U.S. schools for over a decade. Understandably, Schools have adopted systems and protocols to prevent dangerous situations from arising.
An ALICE drill started on Wednesday, February 24th at around 12:00 P.M. with a shrill blast from an air-horn. ALICE, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and evacuate, was created by a law enforcement officer to protect his wife who was a principal at an elementary school. The drill conducted at North Scott was a live drill with administrator Aaron Schwartz as the shooter and occurred during lunch. North Scott conducts two drills a year: one involving a walk to the evacuation spot and the other being the live drill. To see the overall perception of ALICE training at North Scott I interviewed teachers, students, and administrator Schwartz.
To get a good look at what teachers think of ALICE training, I interviewed two teachers, Sean Chapman and Jennifer Sambdman. Both had the same view that the training was very important. Mrs. Sambdman said that when she became a teacher she expected training for these situations but not like it is now. Both teachers also agreed that they took the drills seriously and took them as if they were real. When I talked to Mr. Chapman, he said that the drills are emotionally charged for him because he has children and because of a personal experience he had. “We had a fatal shooting at a school where I was working, The University of Arkansas. I knew the killer and the teacher. I opened the door for the teacher as I was leaving the building, and when I walked out to the parking lot, I glanced over and saw the guy who would eventually kill John Locke, the professor, in his office that morning. It was harrowing and has stayed with me.”
The final question I asked both teachers was what training to defend an attack rather than prevent one says about society. Chapman responded that “It just seems so backward to me, to focus on defending ourselves as opposed to addressing the real problems of access to powerful guns, and mentally imbalanced students who feel that shooting is a logical response to problems in their lives, but I know we’re making changes in the culture of the schools as well and trying to help kids who feel left out.” Sambdman thought that the issue was leaving students out: “the problem is the exclusion and kids who don’t feel as though they are seen and heard. I believe these shootings are a direct compilation of a student feeling isolated, marginalized, and insignificant and they are crying out for someone to ‘notice me’ in a way to elicit a response.” The teachers responses seemed to have the most passion in them which is probably because they are directly responsible for the students.
Statistics show that shootings or attacks in schools or anywhere, are very unlikely, and to a bunch of teenagers who have the “that won’t happen to me mentality,” it won’t seem like a very big deal. North Scott senior, Connor Brown said “We talk about it all the time and even though it’s a good thing to practice, I think it doesn’t really have the effect on students that is intended.” I attempted to find at least one student who took the drills very seriously, but I could not find one. The students I asked all said it wasn’t something they really thought about or took seriously. The overall perception from students seemed to be that ALICE training is seen as a way to get out of class.
I interviewed administrator, Aaron Schwartz on his perception of the ALICE training. Schwartz is head of the safety committee for the high school, so I had expected to get more facts than perspective. I asked him the same questions I asked teachers and his responses were different in that they were more fact based and slightly defensive. When asked what training to defend an attack rather than prevent one says about society, Schwartz replied that “the Virginia Tech shooting and subsequent research show that there is a better chance of survival with the ALICE technique versus the old 'lockdown' technique.” He didn’t give me anything about why we choose to defend rather than prevent, so the perspective I got was that he was assured that ALICE was the best plan under the circumstances.
ALICE training is something that is meant to get a response from teachers and students. Teachers are the only ones who seem to generate that response, as most students just calmly walk to an exit and talk casually amongst friends. Teachers take the situation seriously, some because it is a serious matter and some because it is there job to set an example.