Most of us who are parents agree that safety is more important than academics at our schools. We entrust educators with our children for a good chunk of time each school day. We demand that they take reasonable steps to protect our kids, and expect that they use good common sense in doing so.
Yet many parents, public safety officials and educators question whether school and police officials advocating to teach students to attack armed intruders meet the “reasonable” and “common sense” aspects of parental expectations.
In Loco Parentis delegates temporary, not permanent, parental power
The legal concept of in loco parentis means “in place of the parent.” School officials certainly have a temporary delegation of parental power while children are in their custody during the school day. But in loco parentis does not grant educators a permanent and involuntary reduction of parental liberties.
Parents can and should have a voice in limiting the scope of power delegated to school officials in certain areas impacting their child. Parents can certainly demand accountability from the temporary caretaker of their child.
In short, parents do not relinquish their primary right to make decisions regarding the best interests of their child simply because educators enjoy in loco parentis authority through the necessity created by mandated school attendance.
One of those areas where parents can and should have a voice is in the safety of their children. They especially 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.
What parents should ask about ALICE Training and schools teaching kids to fight gunmen
In my blog post entitled Bringing Pencils & Books to a Gun Fight; ALICE Training Raises Questions, I joined a number of educators, public safety officials and parents who challenge those who propose teaching K-12 school kids to bombard armed gunmen with books, backpacks, desks, etc. This action is part of what is sometimes referred to as A.L.I.C.E. (Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate) Training, a program being advocated in a small but noticeable number of school-communities.
In that article and on my web page on Teaching School Students to Fight Gunmen, I raise a number of questions parents and others should ask on aspects of this proposed training of students including on:
- Age appropriateness and developmental factors;
- Considerations and implications for special needs students;
- Qualifications of the instructors and methods of instruction of this training; and
- Liability of the trainers and the agencies involved (school district, law enforcement agency, etc.)
among many other concerns.
Parents should not only ask questions, they should do so formally in writing and if not resolved at the administrative level, ask them at public school board meetings. Some steps parents could take if such a program is being proposed or is already in place in their child’s school include:
- Ask for a written copy of the school board’s formal policy and all school district regulations, procedures, etc. related to the ALICE Program (where this specific program is proposed) or similar programs under a different name where teaching kids to fight armed intruders is being proposed;
- Request a written copy of the entire curriculum and training materials used to train-the-trainers and to train students;
- Request copies of all public records (memos, emails, correspondence, etc.) between school officials and law enforcement agencies related to the planning and implementation of the training program;
- Ask for written notification from all agencies (school district, police department, etc.) and specific trainers/employees who are accepting by-name liability for the implementation and potential ramifications of the program;
- Request a copy of legal opinions and findings obtained by school board members and administrative officials regarding implementation of such training programs. If they refuse to provide legal documents, they still should be asked whether or not such an opinion was formally requested and obtained;
- Ask for opt-out policies and related documents available to parents who do not wish for their children to participate in such training, and copies of specific procedures governing what happens with those who opt-out; and
- Ask your school’s parent organization (PTA, PTO, PTU, etc.) if they are aware of the proposed training program and if they support it.
This list could go on. As I start probing with such records requests, I fully expect most school boards to have no formal policies and many board members may not even be aware of the full liability implications of such training. But a closer look at the above and related documents, or the absence of such internal analysis and planning documents, should help parents begin to better understand what some officials are teaching their children to do.
I increasingly wonder whether parents are being given the full story in those districts pursuing these program. In fact, some of the specific cases I have seen to date suggest parents may be told nothing or only part of the aspects of this training in a sugar-coated manner. Parents deserve full disclosure with discussion of the proposed new approach and its associated risks.
At least now parents know some specific questions they can start asking and public records they can request to make informed decisions.
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