New training encourages students to attack school shooters if necessary

The public had its first chance to meet ALICE on Wednesday evening, but not many came to learn about a new tactic soon to be employed in Juneau as a means to fight school schooters.

Juneau Police Department’s Blain Hatch, an officer in Juneau for about 22 years and a school officer for the past eight or nine, led the training.

ALICE, an initialism standing for “alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate,” was created by a police officer after the Columbine school shooting in 1999.

Its most revolutionary principle is the idea that students and staff should not simply remain in lockdown if attacked — they should run away or even fight back.

“ALICE teaches individuals to participate in their own survival while leading others to safety,” the program’s website states.

Hatch assured the audience that the sky is not falling and that Juneau schools are safe, but it is time to introduce an alternative to the lockdown system.

Lockdowns involve having teachers and students stay in place in their classrooms amid a threat. Lockdowns were designed to counter gang violence and threats coming from outside schools. The big threat now is a school shooter, someone already in the building.

“Violence has now moved into our schools,” Hatch said.

City Emergency Manager Tom Mattice said the way adults respond to emergencies is often ingrained at a young age, so the goal is to teach students tactics more responsive than the lockdown method, which makes people on the scene “sitting ducks.”

There were no physical demonstrations of ALICE tactics at Wednesday’s event; instead, a slide show presentation included video and audio taken from shooting incidents.

One video showed students demonstrating lockdown principles: shutting the room’s blinds and lining up in the dark along a wall without windows or doors.

“Lock down. Lights out. Safe?” Hatch asked. “No.”

The second video was of a Florida school board meeting with a disgruntled citizen wielding a gun. The video ended with the shooter being fired upon by a school security officer.

Hatch asked the audience if they saw a chance for escape. The audience responded that when a woman hit the man with her purse, action could have been taken.

An audio clip from Columbine played. After the clip, Hatch told the audience that 13 students and the teacher they heard on the 911 call were killed, and that there was an exit door 30 feet away.

The message was that the mindset ingrained in most people today is to stay put, but it shouldn’t be.

Though the slide show showed examples of heroic bystanders taking down a shooter — which Hatch noted is a possibility — he said he’s “not telling anybody to be ninjas.”

“I’m not training you how to fight, just giving some options,” Hatch explained.

The program will be widely implemented across Juneau. Floyd Dryden Middle School was the first to be trained, in December. Hatch said a drill with staff and children “went awesome.”

“I had kids come up to me, ‘You were the bad guy! If you came in the room we were going to have books to throw at you! That would have been awesome!” Hatch said, adding that staff found the training to be “empowering.”