In response to the dramatic increase in school violence throughout the country, the Miami Trace Local School District is in the process of making improvements to its school safety plan.
On Monday, Oct. 19, parents of Miami Trace students and members of the public are invited to learn and ask questions about these safety additions and how they impact the children. This informational meeting is set for 7 p.m. in the Miami Trace High School auditorium.
The implementation of new safety measures has become a primary area of focus for Superintendent David Lewis. “We felt we needed to improve in many areas as far as our safety is concerned,” Lewis said. “The number one priority of the Miami Trace Local School District is to provide children with a quality education while keeping them safe and secure. This is a responsibility we take seriously.”
Over the past few years, some of these improvements include:
– Contracting with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office for a deputy to be on campus while school is in session;
– Creating the position of student safety and attendance coordinator;
– Purchasing 50 new radios to be used on campus for safety and management purposes;
– Providing 42 staff members the full two-day A.L.I.C.E. safety training;
– Numbering every exterior door and window on campus to assist safety service personnel in case of an emergency;
– Developing a comprehensive district emergency operations plan; and
– Making several improvements to the district security camera and door access control systems.
In order to better prepare the students in the event of an emergency, the Miami Trace Board of Education has adopted the A.L.I.C.E. protocol. A.L.I.C.E. is an acronym for “Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate.” This program was authored by a police officer to keep his wife, an elementary school principal, safe following the school shooting that occurred on April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colo. The perpetrators murdered a total of 12 students and one teacher.
Since that time, A.L.I.C.E. has become the leading active shooter response program in the U.S., according to the program’s website. The program’s purpose is to prepare individuals to handle the threat of an active shooter. It teaches individuals to participate in their own survival, while leading others to safety. Though no one can guarantee success in this type of situation, this new set of skills will greatly increase the odds of survival should anyone face this form of disaster, according to the website.
The purpose of “Alert” is to notify as many people as possible within the danger zone that a potentially life-threatening risk exists. “Lockdown” is to secure in place and prepare to evacuate or counter, if needed. “Inform” is to continue to communicate the intruder’s location in real time. “Counter” is to interrupt the intruder and make it difficult or impossible to aim; this is a strategy of last resort. “Evacuate” is to remove yourself from the danger zone when it is safe to do so.
“Prior to the A.L.I.C.E. plan, lockdown procedures consisted of the locking of doors, moving to an area of the room where you cannot be seen, and remaining silent until an ‘all clear’ announcement was given,” Lewis said. “The A.L.I.C.E. protocol stresses the importance of technology and information in making decisions, removing as many people as possible from the threat, and providing realistic training so that those confronted by a threat have the skills necessary for survival.”
Bill Franke, the district business manager, was the first to undergo the A.L.I.C.E. training in early 2014. Since that time, there have been 41 other employees on the Miami Trace campus who have been trained.
“For a district our size, I would say that’s very unique,” said Franke. “The best thing about the program is it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. It gives our staff and students options. Previously, it was a very prescriptive approach. Before, if you were told to lock down, you went into the classroom, you locked the door, pulled the blinds down, shut the lights off and got under the desk. It was a one size fits all. But what they found over time is, for example, if you know there’s an active shooter in the main office of the elementary school, then why in the world would the second and third grade lock down in their classroom when they have plenty of time and ample opportunity to evacuate the building? And in those cases when they don’t have any other option but to shelter in place, just locking the door isn’t enough. You have to barricade the door with furniture and strap the door closed. And if God forbid, someone would get through all of that, then you may at some point have to counter.”
District administrators emphasized that in no way are they asking students to attempt to subdue an armed person outside of their secure area. However, students will be provided with the knowledge and training necessary, that if faced with a life or death situation, there are methods that can be applied to greatly enhance their chances of survival.
“You’re throwing things, you’re a moving target….you’re not just a sitting duck,” said Lewis. “It gives you options to survive. The big thing is to get out of the building. But if you’re not able to do that, this teaches you to counter the best way that you can.”
Jack Anders, who previously worked in the probation department for the Fayette County court system for approximately 15 years, has been hired as the student safety and attendance coordinator. He recently finished the A.L.I.C.E. training and presented what he learned to the school board.
“The average response time for a law enforcement officer to a school shooting is three to five minutes based on data that has been compiled,” said Anders. “And it’s usually on the higher end of that. On average, there was one death every 15 seconds in these shootings. So when law enforcement arrived in five minutes, you’re looking at 20 deceased people. This program has taught us that it’s better to be proactive than passive.”
A letter that includes an emergency information guide brochure has been sent to the parents of all district students. The letter also invites them to Monday’s forum. In the meantime, more information can be found at www.alicetraining.com. Once the parents have their say, the plan is to train the students in the A.L.I.C.E. program.
“Safety is a multi-faceted plan,” said Franke. “It’s not just A.L.I.C.E., it’s the addition of Jack (Anders), it’s radios, it’s numbering all of the windows on the exterior, it’s upgrading and finding out where we have holes in our cameras and access control systems, it’s additional PA call centers where people can get on the PA if they need to. There is a lot involved. We want to reiterate to everyone that we know that bad things can happen and we’re not giving anybody the false sense that something bad can’t happen here. All we can do is do our best to try to minimize the risk of those kinds of things. We look forward to hearing what the public has to say.”
Reach Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352 or on Twitter @rywica