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If you go
What: East Allen County Schools board meeting with ALICE school safety presentation
When: 6:30 p.m. today
Where: New Haven High School, 1300 Green Road, enter through door 2 on the south side
The five action steps in the ALICE concept are:
Alert – Inform people that a crisis situation exists.
Lockdown – Lock doors and hide according to established procedures.
Inform – Give brief, specific, periodic updates about the crisis situation.
Counter – In an encounter with a perpetrator, distract, delay or defend if necessary.
Evacuate – Get out of harm’s way.

EACS explores options on safety

Program teaches more active role

If a gunman entered their school today, East Allen County School students are told to get to a classroom, lock the door and tuck themselves into a corner and stay there.

But by next school year, officials are suggesting a different approach – even distracting a gunman or defending themselves and evacuating the building if necessary.

Parents and community members are invited to learn tonight about a program for school safety that could soon have East Allen County Schools teachers, students and staff changing the way they react to safety situations.

The program offers safety training for school districts through the ALICE Training Institute, which provides tools and strategies on how individuals can respond to potentially dangerous situations.

ALICE is an acronym that represents an alternative way of responding to a crisis through five concepts – alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate.

The five concepts are not necessarily sequential but are designed to be used as options, according to the program’s website.

The ALICE training program, based in Medina, Ohio, teaches students, teachers and staff to take safety into their own hands with an alternative way of responding to a crisis situation, Superintendent Ken Folks said.

It will not call for armed teachers or staff members and the district is not considering that as an option, Folks added.

In a traditional lockdown, students and staff are instructed to lock classroom doors, turn off the lights, hide in the corner of the classroom and remain calm and quiet, Folks said.

“This is the procedure that we have followed for years in East Allen County Schools,” he said. “But what if there was a better course of action to follow than the traditional lockdown procedure in the event of an armed intruder?”

The ALICE training method emphasizes that the best way to survive an active shooter is to escape, Folks said.

For example, if an armed intruder were to enter the building through the office area, the training would suggest locking down the area where the gun is located, while evacuating the section of the building where students can safely leave, he said.

But if escape isn’t an option, the program teaches staff members to be prepared to distract, delay or defend themselves against an intruder.

If approved by the board, training for the district’s safety specialists will begin at the end of April and staff training will take place in late April and May.

The district has 15 employees trained through the Indiana School Safety Specialist academy and plans to add five more specialists in the coming months, Folks said.

EACS school safety manager Jeff Studebaker said the initial training will cost about $12,000.

Studebaker added that there has not been an active shooter in East Allen schools in at least the last 15 years he has been with the district.

“We’ve had angry parents, angry community members and people that may have created problems, but no … . Although we have not had a crisis like that, want to be ready in case something does happen,” Studebaker said.

Folks said he doesn’t believe the new program will create any additional liability for teachers or staff members.

“Basically, it is a guideline not a policy,” Folks said. “ … In my opinion, we decrease liability because we are empowering people to make decisions based on the circumstances at hand.”

Folks said with the board’s approval, he expects the program to be fully implemented at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

“East Allen County Schools is committed to providing the safest possible environment for our students and our staff,” he said.

“Parents and guardians they trust the schools daily to keep students safe and we take that very seriously.”

jcrothers@jg.net

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