The co-creator of ALICE training admits that there is not one known ALICE-trained school that has ever used the controversial ALICE “counter” technique where students are taught to throw things and attack armed gunmen, according to an article last week by Education Week’s Evie Blad.
Blad’s article opened by highlighting a recent Fox News’ Fox & Friends morning show where a Krav Maga instructor showed how he teaches teen students to disarm school shooters. The story caused her to ask, “Do schools teach that?”
Training students to attack gunmen is an unproven tactic
In her story, Blad flashed back to her interview last January with Lisa Crane, co-creator of the ALICE (Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate) Training program. The controversial “counter” component teaches students to make noise, throw classroom materials and attack (or as they like to call it in softer form, “swarm”) heavily armed gunmen.
This particular block of Blad’s story was especially telling of how the “counter” tactic is an unproven tactic in a school setting:
Crane couldn’t name a school that had ever used the counter technique in a real active shooter situation. The six ALICE-trained schools that have used their training in intruder situations have all stopped short–relying instead on the more common approach of locking down classrooms, she said.”
This reinforces what a number of experienced school safety professionals have pointed out for years: There is a substantial history of more than a decade and half showing lockdowns as a proven best practice. There is not one documented instance of an ALICE-trained class applying the controversial tactic of throwing things and attacking an armed gunmen in an actual K-12 active shooter incident.
Other school active shooter attack training also unproven
ALICE training is not the only controversial program where students and/or school staff are taught to throw things and attack armed gunmen. Programs known as “Run-Hide-Fight” and “Avoid-Deny-Defend,” as well as others, include a similar approach to that of ALICE training as it relates to having students and/or school staff attacking gunmen.
A recent story from Texas described the Avoid-Deny-Defend program and the questions arising from one school district adopting the program while another area district chose not to do so. Mo Canady, the executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, was referenced as saying there is no evidence that teaching students to attack armed gunmen works or is the the proper way to plan for handling school shootings.
Canady was asked about the Avoid-Deny-Defend program where the “defend” component involved teaching “hurling scissors and textbooks to stealing the bad guy’s gun.” In that article, Canady was attributed as follows:
Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers in Alabama, says there’s no evidence that Avoid-Deny-Defend works better.
“Who is planning more properly, Dallas or Fort Worth?” Canady said. “I don’t have the answer for that. It’s a really difficult question. I hate to say this but we’re going to have to wait until a major incident happens in a school that is using” Avoid-Deny-Defend tactics.
“It may work very effectively,” Canady said. “I just don’t know.”
Similar to the ALICE training acknowledgment that their “counter” technique is unproven, Canady rightfully points out the same unproven nature of the Avoid-Deny-Defend program. It is frightening that some school leaders, who preach evidence-based mandates for their academic curriculum, are so quick to ignore the lack of evidence of these unproven methods for keeping their children safe.
Police tactics do not automatically translate to school tactics; Reacting with unproven theories puts children at-risk
The idea that some schools are allowing children to be trained to use close combat tactics that are unproven ignores and/or marginalizes the established, proven best practice of lockdowns. It preys on the emotions of today’s active shooter frenzy that is spreading across the nation. Using unproven tactics in child-oriented settings fails to acknowledge and integrate the high risk of doing so by skimming past age, developmental, special needs and other implications of such unproven tactics.
Our law enforcement officers are well intended but those advocating for such programs often have not thought out implementation issues. While we recognize that local police departments may feel compelled or even pressured to provide “some type” of advice to schools, many only know that which they have been trained themselves for their work on city streets.
Police advice to schools of what might work in a back alley of their city is not as simple and easy to transfer to child-centered, school settings. By adopting such unproven theories in school settings, educators face a high-risk of exceeding a standard of reasonableness by putting children and educators at greater risk.
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