On the ALICE Program

Tate Flack '20

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With the dramatic proliferation of mass shootings in recent years, University School administration decided to reduce this threat by implementing the ALICE policy. ALICE, an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate, provides an alternative to the “lockdown only” approach. This modernized strategy allows the given staff the autonomy to decide what to do in a given situation whether it be countermeasures, evacuation, or even lockdown.

At University School, faculty and staff were trained according to this method, and it sparked varied responses from students. Junior Sai Karnati noted that “I feel like this system only adds more confusion. I, myself, don’t understand why it is needed or why it is so different than the system already there.” He later noted that “I don’t know what I would do in such a trying situation… there are just too many variables for me even to be able to follow this system.” Sai indicated that there is not just one type of violent attack, that the attack can come unexpectedly and in ways unpredicted. He thinks that systemizing this unpredictability is not useful.

However, this system is intentionally vague. The vagueness comes from the ways and means by which the individual chooses to counter and evacuate. This is entirely unpredictable, and the ALICE system only attempts to establish a clear line of thought when one is in the frantic situation of an active shooting.

Junior John DeSantis had a dissenting opinion noting, “I think that being prepared for a difficult situation is always a good thing. Although I would agree that there is no perfect way to predict exactly what would happen, knowing a basic course of action couldn’t hurt.” DeSantis, showing optimism for the new system, helps to provide evidence for why it was enacted in the first place.

The administration felt a need for a system that helped to provide security and clarity when responding to an active shooter. Additionally, the ALICE program doesn’t claim to wholly suppress or altogether avoid the actions or effects of a school shooter. Rather, the program provides student and faculty a means to safety. Noting that no single response can fit all active shooter situations, the ALICE management team claims that making sure each individual knows his or her options could save valuable time.

The ALICE program finds its roots in the Jefferson administration’s promise of safe education for all the citizens of the United States. With over 300 “mass shootings” occurring in 2018 so far, teachers and administrators have a responsibility to anticipate potential dangers and to take precautions to protect their students. ALICE is a much-needed step.