ALICE training co-founder admits ‘counter’ tactic of students attacking gunmen has never been used by an ALICE-trained school class

Posted by on December 14, 2015

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.

Ken Trump

National School Safety and Security Services

Experts You Can Trust! 

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6 thoughts on “ALICE training co-founder admits ‘counter’ tactic of students attacking gunmen has never been used by an ALICE-trained school class

  1. Chuck Hibbert says:

    Over the years you’ve been an advocate for classroom emergency preparedness using proven methods such as lockdowns. This method has shown itself to be effective and provides protection for all students. Many who advocate other methods fail or ignore special needs students or the very young in our preK-12 environments. We must provide sound training for all students and staff. Our friends in law enforcement, often from small or rural agencies, are looking for a fool proof answer. There isn’t one. We must take reasonable steps to prepare and respond. Reasonable!

  2. Mark E. Kissel says:

    Most people fail to remember that school-based staff, especially school teachers stand in “loco parentis” meaning they serve as a parent or guardian while children are at school. Most responsible parents will do anything they can to protect their children during a crisis — and we have seen no less from teachers. Children are trained early on to stand in line and “follow the leader.” Even with the best staff training, we have seen students and staff running — as Chuck said, (paraphrasing) “there is no fool proof answer. Most schools have a Safety Plan in place to address dangerous situations which include lockdown and barricaded doors. These methods have been effective yet, if the door is breached — fight for your life (and your student’s lives) if you have to. I know some parents who are encouraging their high and middle school children to run which contradicts the reasonable approach of staff securing the students in a locked and barricaded room. Staff should be trained to make sound decisions and students should be encouraged by their parents to follow the directions of the teacher/leader!

  3. George Bratten Jr. says:

    The Avoid-Deny-Defend approach was applied at the Vaughan Foods attack in Moore, OK in 2014. The other employees fought the attacker valiantly with chairs and other items, but failed to deter the knife attacker. Only a coworker who retrieved his AR 15 from his car was able to stop the attack. That was far too late for the grandmother who was beheaded. Firearms have a place at work and at school in the hands of employees, supervisors and teachers.

  4. Harold Chadwick says:

    I understand that you have serious reservations with expecting students to attack an active threat. But I really see this as the worst, but sometimes the only choice available. If we followed the combined the (you say; proven) School Lockdown procedure with run, hide, fight, we would simply ask that students/teachers undertake and then seek an opportunity to “run”. I.E. (when possible), evacuate out of a classroom (via fire doors or windows) after you have locked down the room. Am I wrong in seeing this as a combination of evacuation and lockdown?

  5. Aaron Gooch says:

    Curious what your suggestion is for those in a situation where a lockdown or evacuation isn’t possible. Those are he situations the “counter” is intended to apply to. Is your suggestion they hide under a desk and hope the bad picks another victim or shows mercy?

    It’s about layers. None more important than another. They apply in different circumstances.

  6. Jim says:

    All of these programs (including ALiCE) are options-based responses based on numerous government and law enforcement studies that have stated Lockdown (hiding in a room, huddled in the corner, with lights out) – as the “rule” (like evacuation for a fire) for an active shooter event – does not work alone. People must have flexible options – not rules – for dynamic events like these! I’ve researched many of these programs and all state that fighting back or defending or countering is a LAST RESORT OPTION! I’m curious what Ken’s advice would be when confronted (ambused) by a violent threat and running (evac) or Lockdown were not options. Don’t we have permission from the “experts” to live!? If so, how would you do that in my scenario?

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