A new drill known as ALICE, that has become the safety program used by school districts all across the United States, has sparked a lot of controversy among the students and staff of participating schools.
According to The ALICE Training Institute, 4,200 k-12 school districts are using the ALICE training as part of their safety protocols. Berkshire Hills Regional School District in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, is among the many districts practicing ALICE. The ALICE drill stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate, and gives students the option to run, hide, or fight.
Students and faculty at Monument Valley Regional Middle School (MVRMS) have mixed feelings about how their school has approached practicing for an intruder, their use of the ALICE training in the past, and further steps that are being taken.
Miles Wheat, Vice Principal at MVRMS, shared his take on their preparation involving the ALICE training in the past, and further actions that are being made to improve student safety. He thinks they will be taking a step in the right direction these next few months as drills start to become more frequent.
“I think we haven’t actually practiced ALICE drills enough this year, there was some confusion on the adult level of kind of what that meant, and so we held back more than we probably should have, but you will see them more often between now and the end of the year,” said Wheat.
“I think it’s [the ALICE drill] a lot smarter than what it was before, and I’m happy that they’re trying to do a better job, and trying to rethink their system,” said Elsa, an eighth grade student in attendance at MVRMS.
Overall, Elsa believes that the improvements being made are great and has few concerns. “They’re doing a good job covering everything. Mr. Wheat spent our entire Social Studies class answering questions that we had. There’s still a few open-ends, but I think they’re almost trusting us more to use our heads.”
However, Maya, also an eighth grade student at MVRMS, believes otherwise. “I don’t think they’ve approached it well at all. They keep saying we’re protecting the little kids [by not practicing more realistic drills], but really I think they’re putting them in danger, because when a shooter or an attacker comes in, they’re not going to take it easy on the little fifth graders.”
Maya also shared her opinion on the communication and decision making process. “When a shooter comes in they’re not shooting the [school] board, they’re shooting the kids… they’re not the ones whose lives are at stake, so I think that the students need to be more involved.”
Frederic Erickson, the eighth grade math teacher at MVRMS, had mixed feelings about ALICE. He believes that the drill can give the students a sense of power by allowing them the option to fight back, but he also thinks that if they really want to protect the students, they should be making sure that kids in the building are “healthy”.
“One of the things I like is that, instead of just accepting the entrance of an intruder, that we would fight back against that intruder… It gives us a more optimistic view. I’m no longer just a victim, I’m a victim who has some power, and I think knowing that ahead of time is really important for lots of people,” said Erickson.
Erickson also stated, “Most of the people who do bad things come from within your own system, and if we are focused on keeping all of those people healthy and comfortable, and feeling welcomed and belonging, then that’s going to have a much greater impact on potential outcomes, than letting people go ‘bad’, and then dealing with the ramifications of that.”
Elana, an eighth grader, also had a passionate opinion relating to ALICE. “With all of the school shootings happening this year especially, and years in the past, and all the controversy about it, I think it’s brought to more parents and kids attention, which means that we should be talking about it more and preparing for it more if it happens.”
In addition, Kyla shared her views on how MVRMS has been practicing these drills. She feels that the school is doing enough, and that as long as students have a general sense of what to do, their instincts will protect them.
“The goal is not to make you feel like something bad is happening, or that it could happen soon, because obviously there’s always that possibility, but administrators don’t want it to be a thing where students think it definitely will happen. In the chance that it does, just listen to what you’re supposed to do and know the basics,” said Kyla.
The diversity of opinions of the staff and students is what makes this such a controversial topic throughout Monument Valley Regional Middle School.