5 Common School Security Misconceptions

There are some large-scale misconceptions being spread throughout the media and online about ALICE Training.

Recently, there have been media articles and posts making broad claims about school security, the effectiveness of school security measures, and the impact that these measures have on staff and students. This conflation of all different types of security measures has created confusion and leads to false conclusions. What follows will clear up these misunderstandings and outright falsehoods, in order to paint a more accurate picture about school safety.

These misconceptions are addressed below.

Misconception 1: The “School Security Industry” is ineffective.

Many posts tie together infrastructure, device companies and products, armed security, SRO policies, and training programs into one large school security industry grouping and then make conclusive claims about the effectiveness of the industry as a whole. By their nature, these are all very different solutions and they should be evaluated separately. This grouping does not make sense because each program is designed for different outcomes and addresses different school security issues.

Not all school security measures are created equal and each offers a different promise.

ALICE is a training program that empowers individuals to participate in their own survival using proactive response options when confronted with violence in any scenario. While ALICE is often taught in schools, it is a skill that is used beyond just the school application. ALICE does not prevent violence – but it can help you survive should you be confronted with it. The purpose of ALICE is to prepare and empower.

Misconception 2: Because school violence can’t be prevented, school security measures are an endless investment.

A recent article summed up the reporters’ findings with, “No amount of investment in security can guarantee a school protection from gun violence.”

This is partially correct – no training program, security device, or infrastructure improvement can guarantee complete safety and violence prevention. Just because prevention is not guaranteed does not mean that security enhancing measures should not be invested in. It is fair to question the effectiveness of specific security measures before a large monetary investment is made. Schools are using public funds for school security and should be making sound investments aimed at mitigating risks and increasing chances of survival.

But it must be remembered that safety is an ongoing process. Successful ALICE implementation requires repeated training to be effective. Safety should never mean checking a box and being done. This is why ALICE does not endorse specific security device purchases. Each device, technology, and product has limitations. Investing in training individuals on how to respond when confronted with violence is the most effective way to increase chances of survival. ALICE training works within any infrastructure and scenario. This means that proactive response training is the soundest investment.

Misconception 3: There is no evidence that ALICE makes schools safer.

The ALICE program has existed for nearly 20 years and is used in schools in every state across the nation. With this footprint, ALICE has now been used successfully over a dozen times to confront violence in and outside of schools. One of the articles calling into question the effectiveness of ALICE detailed out survey responses from three different schools that had suffered active shooter events; Forest High School in Florida, Dixon High School in Illinois, and Rancho Tehama Elementary School in California.  All three of these schools used their ALICE training to respond to the active shooter and none of them suffered any fatalities. The article fails to mention that these specific schools had been ALICE trained.

Other examples of ALICE strategies in action can be found here.

ALICE training has been repeatedly used to empower individuals to participate in their own survival and has helped save lives. The insurance industry sees the same benefit of investment by recommending ALICE training on the A.M. Best Company Expert Service Providers list.  ALICE active shooter response training is the only active shooter response training on the list which speaks to a larger breadth of safety.

Misconception 4: Students are not capable of participating in all ALICE survival strategies.

ALICE is age and ability appropriate training. The counter strategy is what most critics attack when they attack ALICE training. These attacks are born from a misunderstanding of what counter is and is not. Counter is NOT fighting. Counter IS distraction and control measures to be used as a last resort and only if you are in immediate contact with the attacker. Counter strategies rely on strength in numbers to take back control of the situation from an attacker. Control or “swarm” strategies are NOT taught to young children. Age appropriate training means that the training is customized to be appropriate for each age and ability level. Students and young children can react appropriately during frightening events switching quickly from passive victim to proactive.  This is achieved through training, and training consistently thoughout each stage of growth. Stranger danger training is a great example of empowering children when at a young age they are taught to fight and scream if a stranger should attempt to take them. Another empowerment training is stop, drop and roll and this too is taught starting at a young age.

Additionally, critics say that students cannot counter a gunman. In some instances, they have no other choice. Students are capable of countering and can do what is necessary to survive.

Look at the student who helped inspire the creation of the ALICE training program with his heroic response during a school shooting. On May 21, 1998, 17-year-old Jake Ryker was a student at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon. On that fateful day, Jake was sitting in the cafeteria when another student walked into the building and started shooting. Jake’s instinctive response was to be proactive rather than passive. Despite being shot and wounded by the attacker, Jake led the effort to subdue the gunman and held him until law enforcement arrived. Jake was able to initiate taking back control while under attack. To insinuate that students are incapable of taking back control is an insult to the heroic actions taken by Jake that day which saved many lives. The shooter still had over 700 rounds of ammunition when he was stopped by Jake.

This event verified that counter-strategies – students taking back control – are not only plausible but have been used successfully.

Misconception 5: General lack of understanding of the realities of active shooter events in schools.

When it comes to dialogue around school safety measures and their effectiveness, there also tends to be a lack of understanding around the realities of these events, along with an endless string of “what ifs.”

ALICE Training is based on research and analysis of actual active shooter events and therefore deals in actual realities, not hypotheticals.

The following data is used in building ALICE strategies and applications of the training.

FBI Research April 2018

  • 8 of the 50 active shooter incidents in 2016-2017 were ended by citizens:

DHS/National Sheriff’s Association

  • 18 minutes is the average police response time

DHS March 2018

  • 50% of attacks ended in less than 5 minutes

Washington Post/updated article Oct. 29,2018

  • The average age of school shooter is 16

FBI Study – 2000-2013

  • Of the 24 school shooting incidents 20 of the shooters were school aged

Doctorate Research

Ultimately, these misconceptions tend to spread through painting this issue with a broad brush and as part of a larger agenda to focus the national dialogue on specific calls for gun reform measures. The national gun debate is not our realm and ALICE has no part in it. Arguments for and against in the gun reform debate do not need to drag ALICE through the mud or cloud the waters of truth in order to be made. That debate rests in the realm of politics. We work directly with training civilians in response strategies to violence. Overall, that debate does not impact the effectiveness and value of receiving ALICE training as a life skill.

The ALICE Training Institute will continue to rise above these misconceptions and remains committed to our mission of increasing the chances of survival by empowering individuals with proactive response options.

November 15th, 2018|
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