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Published: Saturday, 12/15/2012

Program urges teachers, students to flee shooters

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Some schools around the country, including here in northwest Ohio, have undergone a Texas-based training program that gives teachers and students options to save their lives other than cowering under desks during a shooting.

Sylvania City Schools just completed the training, provided by Response Options of Burleson, Texas, and carried out in conjunction with the Sylvania city and township police departments, said Superintendent Brad Rieger.

“This training had 100 percent support of the staff,” Mr. Rieger said. “Hopefully we never have to use this, obviously, but I feel better having these options out there and training the students and the staff.”

Greg Crane, president of Response Options, said more than 300 school districts nationwide have taken his training.

His philosophy is summed up in the acronym for the training — ALICE, as in Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. But while “lockdown” is part of the acronym, Mr. Crane said it’s not a good option when you have the option to flee.

“If the ability is to get out, why stay? If a building is on fire we don’t tell the people to stay and wait for the firemen to arrive,” Mr. Crane said.

“Why when it’s a manmade extreme danger in a building are we telling people to stay?”

A former SWAT police officer, Mr. Crane said he developed the program after the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. His wife was an elementary school principal, and she had explained to him the lockdown procedure in her school. He said that spurred him to propose a different plan.

He said shooters are determined to kill people and that sitting in a classroom makes the victims vulnerable.

“The basic philosophy of a lockdown program is get into a room, lock the doors, and wait for the police. Not everyone will be able to do that. Locked doors have been defeated before,” Mr. Crane said.

“Those that do come in contact with the bad guy, if the only thing we’ve taught them to do is to sit in the corner and wait for the police to get there, well what do they do now?” Mr. Crane said.

He said if the shooter in the Newtown situation was occupied with arguing and shooting in the administration offices, as early reports Friday indicated, that would have given all the teachers time to quickly get their children out of the building.

He said the Newtown school had not received ALICE training.

“Most schools in a very calm, orderly fire drill can evacuate the school in 90 seconds to two minutes. Maybe going out some unorthodox way like climbing out of windows it would be even quicker,” Mr.Crane said. “"That removes a heck of a lot of targets really quickly.”

He said a child running away is less likely to be shot at accurately than a child sitting passively under a desk, and a shooter who is being yelled at or pelted with objects is also less likely to be able to effectively kill people and more vulnerable to being disabled.

“The counter strategies are worst-case scenarios. ‘He's in the room shooting at us. What do we do?’ Well we tell them what to do, make his job of shooting them accurately more difficult,” Mr. Crane said. “Noise, movement, visual distractions, and if necessary, numbers, body weight.”

Mr. Crane said his training was taken by an Ohio woman at Kent State University just before the shooting at Chardon High School east of Cleveland on Feb. 27.

He said the woman discussed the training philosophy with her 14-year-old daughter who remembered what her mother had told her when she witnessed the first two students shot in the school cafeteria.

He said the daughter realized her friends were ducking under the tables.

“She yelled out, ‘My mom said don’t get under the tables, that makes us an easy target, we have to run.’ ” He said those children fled, but a majority of the students stayed under the tables because that's what they had been trained to do. Three students died.

Besides Sylvania public schools, Oregon public schools has undergone the ALICE program. Mr. Crane said educators or police from the city of Bowling Green, Bowling Green State University, and the University of Toledo are among those who have been trained.

“The Toledo area is pretty well saturated with ALICE organizations that are using this in their safety protocols,” Mr. Crane said.

Mr. Rieger said district administrators took the training in the summer of 2011, some of them traveling to Texas for three days.

He said the rest of the staff were trained during the 2011-12 school year, and during the current fall semester the junior and senior high school students were trained, and an age-appropriate version was given to the younger students.

The training included simulating being students in a classroom and being shot at, Mr. Rieger said.

“We’ve been able to convey to the parents we want to give ... staff as many options as possible to deal with a dangerous situation,” he said.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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