“Should We Really Teach Second-Graders to Attack Mass Shooters?” Deanna Pan, senior editorial fellow at Mother Jones, asks this question in a report published today on the Mother Jones website. Pan focuses on a private company called Response Options and the training it offers schools.
Response Options teaches a program called “ALICE,” which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. “Inform” encompasses “aggressive” communication to “keep the shooter off balance,” while “Counter” includes applying skills to “distract, confuse and gain control.” According to the Response Options website, the program was developed in 2000 by Greg Crane, who has a background in SWAT operations, in response to concerns of his wife, then a school principal.
ALICE is meant as an alternative to the more common lockdown procedures which many schools have in place. ALICE suggests that students throw pencils and other items at a shooter and be prepared to rush an attacker. (Read the Mother Jones story for a comment from a teen whose teacher announced a plan to have students remove their pants to create a cloth ladder for emergency evacuation.) Since its inception, the program has been criticized by parents and teachers who believe teaching children to fight back against a mass shooter has serious drawbacks of several types.
Pan quotes Dr. Stephen Brock of the National Association of School Psychologists saying that ALICE tactics could cause anxiety and stress, particularly in the youngest students. Brock adds: “It strikes me as an overreaction and potentially dangerous….School shootings are extremely rare. The odds of a student becoming a victim are one in 2.5 million. The odds of getting struck by lightening? One in 700,000.”
Elsewhere on the web, Ken Trump, president of his own private company, National School Safety and Security Services, cautions that parents are not always informed of the more controversial aspects of ALICE. Evacuation is stressed in letters home at some schools while the “Counter” training it not mentioned.
Trump, whose background is in school security and gang violence, wrote back in 2011 reminding parents that they need not relinquish the right to make decisions about the fundamental safety of their children:
[Parents] should have a voice and a choice when educators and/or safety officials propose teaching and directing students to act in a manner which the natural parents believe could increase the risk of harm to their children.
ALICE training, according to the Response Options website, is $395/person, and the instructors’ course is $595/person. Prices for Ken Trump’s services and training were not posted.