For many years I have helped in school classrooms as a parent volunteer and a guest art teacher. In the fall of 2017, I began substitute teaching as well. Part of the process of becoming a substitute teacher is A.L.I.C.E. training. This is an active shooter response and the acronym means Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.
When I go into a classroom to teach, before I even look for a instructor’s notes, I am ALERT. I check that doors can lock, that windows can open. I check to see if the drop from those windows is a few feet or a couple of floors. I look for closets that can be secured and walls that can hide little students. I look for the emergency room packet or backpack, and only then can I begin to think of teaching.
I've been present in classrooms while small children try to be very quiet, very still during LOCKDOWN drills. Once as a parent volunteer, I was alone in the hallway as a drill began and the school secretary pulled me quickly into the office, locked the door and turned out the lights.
I know that when I teach I can use the walkie-talkie at my belt to INFORM the school secretary and other teachers the location of a shooter. I know that the secretary can inform the entire school via intercom which hallways and doors are currently safe choices for escape.
I know that in many cases the safest choice is to EVACUATE out the windows or doors if a shooter is inside the school. I know I will have to help the students get out quickly.
Because of A.L.I.C.E. training I know that if a shooter has gotten inside the room we must COUNTER. We can throw books, backpacks, and chairs to distract and potentially disarm a shooter. Teachers and older students have even been taught to swarm. We have been taught to run at the shooter and take them down to the floor. It is very hard to shoot a moving target and we have a chance to stop this before more people are harmed.
High school students and teachers have been taught this lesson for years.
So why are folks surprised that we are marching tomorrow in DC? Marching for those students that died in Florida and so many other places.
You taught us to counter.
You taught us to swarm.
You taught us our actions could save lives.
Tomorrow we act.