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ALICE drill shocks staff

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The unimaginable happens, a shooter enters Galena Primary School, but an air horn sounds instead of bullets. All the tension has built up and the teachers scramble out of their rooms to get outside to safety.

The shooter was Mr. Holland, and he was part of an ALICE practice drill– the Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate (ALICE) drill performed at the Galena Primary School on January 13.
Similar drills had been performed at the high school and middle school. This was the first ALICE drill to be conducted at the Galena Primary School.

ALICE according to the ALICE website said, “ALICE Training is a list of options that can be used to stay safe in the event of a violent intruder. Some may choose to Evacuate and some may choose to Lockdown and barricade. Others may choose to Counter if an armed intruder is able to enter the space they are in. ALICE Training is about options.”

With ALICE comes options, so “performing these drills is important so teachers know the different options when the worst happens.” Mrs. Murphy said. She continued by saying, “It is very important to practice, with the teachers being both teachers and students so they can see how the kids will feel in the situation.”

The simulation was conducted by Primary School teachers having a class of three to four “students”. The students were teachers and other staff members from the high school and middle school. Mr. Holland was the active shooter, and Mrs. Murphy ran behind him and blew the air horn to signal the shooter. The teachers had the task of using ALICE to decide what was the best option to ensure the students’ safety.

Mr. Holland entered one side of the primary school and got through the school in around 30 seconds. Mr. Holland made it through seven rooms, checked three more and made it through the cafeteria in the same time it takes a vine to loop five times or 13.3 seconds faster than the men’s 400m dash world record.

This shocked teachers and staff. One concerned staff member was Mrs. Rosenthal. She has a daughter who currently goes to the Galena Primary School. In the meeting after the drill, Mrs. Rosenthal found out that the shooter went through her daughter’s classroom. She said’ “It was so heartbreaking and made everything real.”

During the drill, she played a student. “When we heard a group leave we left.” Which is one of the ideas of ALICE, Evacuate, but not everyone was so lucky. Hearing this she said was “disappointing and it was even worse knowing nothing will be done to completely fix the problem and little to fix the current problem.”

“I looked at it through my daughter’s eyes, a student might not know what to do. I felt sick for everyone in the building because it was clear no one would be safe.” She also pointed out a problem with ALICE’s “Counter” component with kids of a younger age “In [ALICE] you’re supposed to fight back, but how do you tell a small child to throw a chair, or move a filing cabinet. Kids will not be able to pick up the same stuff a high school or middle school student can. The teachers would be by themselves trying to fight or barricade to stop the attacker.” This takes out a very important step in ALICE and leaves the primary teacher without that important option. Many other teachers were concerned.

Ms. Zink was a student. Also, she was concerned. She reiterated the point that ALICE should be adapted for primary school students saying, “How is any student at the primary school supposed to perform the same actions as a high schooler. They rely on their teachers for almost everything. They won’t be able to pick up chairs or move a desk and how is a teacher supposed to be able to move a group of kids if they are all crying or confused. Older students can fend for themselves if worse comes to worse. Primary students won’t be able to do the same.”

She also explained her experience of being part of the drill. “We didn’t even hear the gun in our room. We saw people run, so we ran. But, instead of going out the door which was less than 25 feet away, we all followed everyone else. We funneled into the hall, to the interior of the building, which looking back was counterintuitive. However, at the time it was the only thing we thought of doing. We ran through the library, through the gym with everyone else and left. We were not shot, but not everyone was so lucky.” This goes back to the idea that we don’t know how we will react when it actually happens, which is one of the wildcards to the ALICE program, but like their website says, “it is better than sitting and waiting to be hit”.

Mrs. Murphy is concerned for student safety and realizes the difference between high school and the primary school she said, “The way we respond is different from how they respond. We can lockdown at the high school. They can not.” She continued by talking about the layout of the building, “We did find there were areas of that building that were like funnels. One door to go out of, but two classrooms were going for that same doorway.” Being behind Mr. Holland she said, “I was surprised how easy it was to make it through the building. How little struggle it actually took.”

The primary school also has sliding barn style doors. Mrs. Murphy said, “The sliding doors were open, but I don’t know if a teacher would have the time to be able to shut the door because in that building you are not going to know where the shot is coming from, or where the bad person is. It is so open that a shot can echo through the whole building.”
Ideas on how to fix the problem are being discussed. The ideas that were discussed after the drill were a safe word, a panic button, an open house where kids and parents could walk through the drill together. “We need to ease the kids into talking about intruders, but be careful not to scare the kids so that they are not afraid to go to school,” said Mrs. Murphy.

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