School-shooter-response program alarms parent
BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Teachers and staff were recently trained in the worst-case scenario, an active shooting in a school.
Starting next week, students will be, too.
“It’s just a shame that in today’s environment we have to do this,” said School Board President Elizabeth Egan at the Board of Education meeting, Feb. 25. “I do feel keeping our staff and students safe in our buildings, empowering them to not just always responding out of fear, but out of knowledge, I think we’re in a better place than we were, and I’m delighted our district has taken this on.”
Clarkston Community Schools introduced ALICE, – Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate – training to its staff last month. Starting the week of March 11, the program will be brought to the students as part of a district-wide school safety plan.
Clarkston resident Rob Osterman said he was dismayed when he learned of the program from Superintendent Shawn Ryan.
“When I read Mr. Ryan’s email relating to the ALICE training, it alarmed me and it concerned me,” said Osterman at the meeting. “This is not how we keep children safe. Teaching my 7-year-old how to counter an attacker, how to evade an attacker and to teach her that school is a place where a man will kill her is not in her best interest, in my opinion, backed by my 22 years in the classroom.”
Parents should be kept informed of the program, as it does for other controversial topics, said Trustee Cheryl McGinnis.
“I love what we’re doing, don’t get me wrong,” she said. “I just think that there could be some parents who may want an opportunity to be mindful that that’s going on, just as we have our sex education classes and stuff like that. That would be helpful for a few parents, not saying I think the majority of our district would have a problem with it.”
“We’re very hopeful not only will this improve the safety of our kids in school, but we feel this is a real value added to when they’re at the mall, or any circumstance that might put them in a public location where an unfortunate event might occur,” Ryan said. “We really want them to be prepared because this really is applicable for students, staff, everybody who’s affiliated with this type of program.”
CCS Human Resources Director John Lucido said the ALICE training is age-appropriate, and older students will potentially be taught how to counter an attacker, “maybe a little bit more in the upper el, but we’re not going to teach kindergartners how to counter.”
McGinnis said getting parents involved should be of the utmost importance.
“There are going to be some parents who may want to know what their student is being taught,” she said. “I hope there are going to be opportunities for our students to have de-briefings also so they can discuss how they feel about having to be aware of some of these circumstances.”
Ryan said all parents are being notified.
“We expect this to be a team approach,” said Ryan. “There will definitely be de-briefing within classrooms and grade levels depending on the nature of the training and what the takeaways are. And there will also be opportunities for parents to be able to speak to their children when they get home to unpack this because obviously, it has a different impact depending on the nature and sensitivity of the child.”
Lucido said parents have been regularly informed of the ALICE training and how those plans will be carried out with students in the district.
Osterman cited the National Institute of Mental Health, stating the number two cause of death of children between the ages of 10-14 in 2016 was suicide, 436 children. In that same year, between the ages of 15-24, the second leading cause of death was also suicide, 5,723 deaths.
“While Parkland and Santa Fe were tragedies, the total deaths of both of them was 27,” he said. “My son is far more likely not to come home from school because he took his own life than he is to be targeted by a shooter coming into the building. I understand and respect wanting to do something, but I strongly, strongly disagree with the use of our staff’s time to be certified through a for-profit company.”
Lucido said substitute teachers will also be educated in ALICE “so we can have a constant theme throughout the entire district.”