As A.L.I.C.E. training advocates work to sell their program to school boards and superintendents, five myths continue to circulate about the program and its concept of teaching children to attack armed intruders.
A.L.I.C.E. stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. The “counter” component of teaching school students to throw objects at armed intruders and to physically attack them is garnering more media attention. Reporters, parents, and school board members also appear to be asking some tougher questions on the implications and implementation of the program.
Five myths about A.L.I.C.E. training occur in various news stories and other conversations on the program:
- Myth 1: A.L.I.C.E. training for schools is endorsed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and/or other federal agencies.
Reality: No written evidence has been found of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Department of Education, or any other federal agency endorsing the A.L.I.C.E. program specifically, or the concept of teaching preK-12 school children to “counter” or attack armed intruders in general. DHS has a booklet on active shooters which is focused on a workplace violence context and adult-oriented settings. There is no reference in this document, including in its section on last-resort efforts of physically responding to active shooters, about school-specific settings or the application of the booklet’s content to children. To suggest that A.L.I.C.E. training is specifically “endorsed” by DHS, and to extrapolate what DHS has published for adult workplace settings to also apply to child-centered preK-12 school settings, is a misrepresentation of DHS’s materials and is misleading.
- Myth 2: The A.L.I.C.E. training program is research-based.
- Reality: No formal, independent academic or other research can be found on this specific program. No research is cited in the A.L.I.C.E. Training staff booklet (copyright 2007) in circulation as recently as at least 2010. If such research exists, its advocates should cite and produce it.
- Myth 3: A.L.I.C.E. training is age and developmentally-appropriate.
- Reality: The aforementioned A.L.I.C.E. Training Staff Booklet makes no mention of age and developmental implementation issues. Advocates for A.L.I.C.E. training often waffle when pressed on age and developmental appropriateness, typically “caving in” and saying that they will only teach the “counter” (attacking armed intruders) component to middle and/or high school age students. Excluding certain grade levels and ages of students does not automatically equate to “age and developmental appropriateness” for the remaining students who are trained. The reality is that all students, preK-12, have age and developmental considerations different from adults.
- Myth 4: A.L.I.C.E. training is inclusive of, and applicable to, students with special needs.
- Reality: As noted above, the A.L.I.C.E. training Staff Booklet does not delineate implementation for special needs students. Is the answer to critics’ concerns simply that special needs student will just be excluded from A.L.I.C.E. training? If so, how will that be implemented? And how many students have special needs — physically-challenged, behavioral disorders, autism, medically-fragile, etc.?
- Myth 5: A.L.I.C.E. training has a history of proven effectiveness on the “counter” component in schools.
- Reality: No published information has been found documenting cases specifically where A.L.I.C.E. training has been provided in a school and the “counter” component was subsequently employed in a specific incident that clearly saved more lives than the number of lives saved using current methods and best practices. “Would be” and “could be” claims by A.L.I.C.E. advocates are theories and opinions, and should not be represented (especially in news stories) as “research” and “demonstrated effectiveness.”
I have written extensively on my web site and in a series of blog articles about the implementation considerations, risks, and potential safety and legal liability posed by A.L.I.C.E. training. The above myths and misrepresentations further suggest that while perhaps well-intended, A.L.I.C.E. training may not be well-thought-out by many preK-12 school leaders and program advocates.
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