Locking Down on Lockdowns

ALICE Training at West High encourages students to defy decades of violent intruder protocols

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“The intruder is entering the room, and he’s going to shoot at you,” Iowa City Police officer Ashten Hayes said. “Your job is to do everything you can to survive.” On April 24, West High hosted the Iowa City Police Department with their ALICE training program. The training was an optional event held on a Saturday that gave parents and students an inside look at the new way the police are handling violent intruder protocols in our district. ALICE is an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Escape, a newer way to handle violent intruders in wake of recent shootings. According to Hayes, the lockdown drill used for years in our schools isn’t sufficient by itself. “Even when I was in school, we were taught to sit with our heads under our desks and be quiet,” Hayes said. “Just laying there in plain sight is like being a sitting duck, it’s way easier to shoot.”

Hayes says that ALICE training needs to be implemented as the new violent intruder protocol in our district. Rather than teaching kids to sit quietly and hope the intruder doesn’t see them, ALICE training give students and teachers a choice. While Hayes says there’s no right answer, she believes it’s important for everyone to pick the response they think is correct, since it’s their lives at stake. “We don’t know when these things are gonna happen, so you need to be prepared,” Hayes said.

While lockdown is the second letter in ALICE training, ALICE doesn’t indicate the order in which people should respond; rather, it’s a number of options they can choose to respond. Hayes says that she wouldn’t recommend it unless it’s absolutely necessary. “The chance of survival goes up as you run around, as you throw things. They aren’t expecting you to fight back, so we can use that to our advantage.” Not only would Hayes recommend fighting back, she says that communication is key. The third letter in ALICE stands for inform, meaning telling as many people as possible to get help or to save them. “Rather than having the teacher call the secretary who calls the principal who calls the police, you should call the police yourself. Share your suspicions with the force as quickly as possible,” Hayes said. “Lots of the calls we get are wrong, but I would rather check out a hundred false suspicions than skip over a real one.”

The presentation at West consisted of videos, a slideshow, and demonstrations using members of the audience. First, the volunteers were told to hide somewhere on the stage when the “shooter” entered the room. In this example, only one person escaped getting “shot” by hiding in the curtains. Next, the volunteers were told that they had a choice– try to hide again, or fight back by throwing things. When the “shooter” entered the second time, the volunteers all chose to fight back, throwing foam balls at the attacker and confusing him. Afterwards, all of the volunteers agreed that they felt safer and more confident when given the choice to defend themselves rather than attempting to hide.

Havana Heitman ‘21 was one of the West High students in attendance at the training. Throughout the demonstrations, Heitman was an active participant in simulations with a fake shooter. “I was one of the volunteers, and even though it was fake, I still felt fear seeing him emerge. He could have come from left or right, anytime, quietly or loudly, shooting or looking for us first. He took me and everybody out so fast, in under 5 seconds,” Heitman said. “Basically, no matter how fake it was, I was scared because it was an exact remake of how it would actually happen. My only thought at that moment was “I’m dead”.”

After experiencing it first hand, Heitman believes that all teachers should be required to receive ALICE training. It’s not required in the district yet, but the Iowa City Police Department hopes is will be soon. They believe that it is crucial for teachers to be able to instruct students in a situation with a violent intruder, and Heitman agrees. “It is a good tool to have, since this situation can happen anywhere anytime, not just school,” Heitman said. “It can also help save the lives of students who may be panicking and need an authority figure, like a teacher, to guide them.”

Although she severely hopes something like this will never happen at West, Hayes believes that our school needs to be prepared for the worst. “We don’t know when these things are gonna happen, so you need to be prepared,” Hayes said. “Make mass chaos. Thow things, charge at him, use your arms and legs, do whatever you can to survive with whatever you have. Get that gun out of their hands and fight till you survive, that is the most important thing.”

 

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