Parents voice concerns over new ASD active shooter training

Published: Aug. 31, 2016 at 10:19 PM AKDT
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New active shooter training will be taught to teachers and students across Anchorage this school year, but it's not coming without controversy as some parents and faculty worry school shooting scenarios could be too intense for students.

“A lockdown approach is not enough by itself anymore,” said Anchorage School District’s latest safety and security director Mark Davis.

Davis has been on the job for a little more than six months but is already making big changes to district protocol. He introduced the ALICE active shooter response training to the Anchorage School Board at their Aug. 15 meeting. Now 16 days later, ASD officials say after learning more about the program, it’s become an ethical imperative of the district to “fast-track” its implementation across all of its schools.

“It's something nobody wants to talk about and it's completely understandable, but with the frequency of these shooting events in this country, it's part of our environment and we need to be prepared,” said Davis.

ALICE (an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) is a program taught nationwide. It promotes the traditional lockdown methods in case of a school shooting utilized by ASD for years, but the final lesson of countering an attacker is a hard concept for many parents and teachers to think about.

While younger students may be taught to strictly listen to the directions of their teacher during a lockdown, older students may be told to fight back or even swarm a gunman if cornered in a classroom with no other options.

“In a situation where you cannot evacuate or you cannot lockdown or your lockdown fails, then what can you do to increase your chance of survival?” said Davis.

ASD officials held a public meeting on the new ALICE training on Wednesday. While some understood the program’s tenets, many more questioned why the program is being implemented so quickly and if the training will do more harm than good.

“My daughter's eight years old and she reads the newspaper and she gets nervous about stories about murders and other things happening in the neighborhood, so I'm very concerned about what impact it will have on her to be told that there's a potential that someone might walk through the door and shoot her classroom,” parent Travis Rector said at the public meeting.

According to ASD’s presentation at the meeting, there are about 19 active shooter incidents across the country each year. Davis said although they don’t anticipate any incidents in Anchorage, it would be unconscionable not to give students lessons that could potentially save lives in a worst case scenario.

“Unfortunately we live in a world where we have shooters,” said Lester Atkinson, a grandparent to an ASD student. “We gotta give our children an opportunity to save themselves rather than sit there being passive about it.”

An hour-long electronic training lesson for teachers and faculty will be administered on Sept 9. That training will be followed by a three-hour shooter scenario lesson at the end of Oct.

ALICE training will be discussed in all grade levels with age appropriate variations beginning next school quarter.