Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
In the aftermath of repeated school shootings, superintendents from Scioto County and surrounding school districts are working together with the South Central Ohio Educational Service Center (ESC) in New Boston to establish new emergency response practices through the national ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Intervene, Communicate, Evacuate) Program.
Lowell Howard, ESC superintendent, explained how they began exploring the ALICE program last year, after the shooting in Chardon, Ohio, that killed three people and injured three more. Since the Chardon incident in February 2012, 14 more school shootings have occurred in the United States killing 41 people and injuring 20.
“We actually started exploring this last spring. One of superintendents came in and said, ‘Look, gentlemen, I’ve been in meetings in Columbus and there’s this new safety program going on’,” Howard said. “They said there’s this new program that schools are really exploring and starting training in. I know that I read an article last week that Cincinnati Public Schools have started this training.”
The ALICE Program started in Texas, and trains school teaches and administrators how to respond to an active shooter in their building; how to distract the gunman and defend themselves until law enforcement arrives. The superintendents from local schools asked Howard to research the program, and he brought in a school resource officer from Gahanna, Ohio, and an officer from the Ohio State Highway Patrol to speak with superintendents and local law enforcement agencies.
“The current program is basically total lockdown. You lockdown. You lock all your doors. And that’s it,” Howard said. “This training, especially on the high school level, gives you much more aggressive techniques when (a shooter) comes into a room. It also makes you more aware of what may or may not be a possibility.”
Howard explained that the response would be unique to every school district, and for every grade level.
“There’s a big difference between what you can do at Northwest Local than what Portsmouth City can do downtown, just because they’re out there isolated. All of these shootings, most people don’t realize … those shootings are over in four minutes. I don’t care how many law enforcement people you call or anything, those things are over too quickly. So the question is, are you going to do anything or basically just sit there and take it?” Howard said.
Some schools, such as Portsmouth and the Scioto County Career Technical Center, already have an armed school resource officer who is also a local police officer. Not all schools can afford such a program.
“It’s the same thing every time. Yeah, we know what’s going to be effective, but who’s going to pay for it? And districts are struggling anyway, so automatically you look at the other options you can afford to do,” Howard said.
After hearing about the ALICE Program, local superintendents expressed interest in moving forward with the program, and Howard scheduled another meeting at Wheelersburg School in June to present the information to each of their school boards. Afterward, every school district served by the ESC — Bloom-Vernon, Green, Minford, Northwest, Career Technical Center, Wheelersburg, Clay, Manchester, New Boston, Oak Hill, Portsmouth, Valley, and Washington-Nile — agreed to participate in the program.
The next step, Howard explained, will be for one or more representatives from each of the participating schools to complete ALICE training in the coming months. The training will be offered in two classes during a weekend, and the cost will be divided between the schools based on their number of participants. Each class is limited to 25 people. After completing their training, each of them will be also certified to train more people from their own district. For completing the program, the Ohio Department of Education will award participating districts with additional waiver days to train additional staff.
Howard explained that the districts will use their training to revise and enhance their existing security plans. Most, he said, should be in-place this fall for the start of the 2013-14 school year.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or firstname.lastname@example.org.