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The news site of Ludlow High School

The Cub

The news site of Ludlow High School

The Cub

A.L.I.C.E. approach taken by LHS

A.L.I.C.E. approach taken by LHS

With tragic news of school shootings across the country becoming alarmingly more frequent, Ludlow High School has decided to abandon its traditional safety protocol for a different, more proactive approach.  A.L.I.C.E., which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate, is the new procedure used by Ludlow High School and over 300 other school districts around the country.

“We started to investigate different procedures after Sandy Hook,” says Principal Lisa Nemeth, “Many schools are noticing regular lockdown doesn’t work anymore. It’s not the safest for children. We don’t want to be a community where we make our kids sit in a corner, we want them to get out if possible.”

The old protocol of cowering under desks, remaining static, and passively hoping for the best clearly does not work in real life situations.  This realization spurred the invention of the A.L.I.C.E. safety procedure in 2002.

“A former swat officer, Greg Crane, who is married to a school administrator would go home at night after hearing about a school shooting and would ask his wife, ‘What’s the protocol at your school? What would you do in a situation like this?’ and she would describe her traditional lockdown procedure,” explains Ludlow Police officer Paul Dobek.

Unconvinced at the legitimacy of his wife’s and student’s safety, Crane developed A.L.I.C.E. and the program has been sweeping across the nation as a safer alternative to a passive lockdown.

Both Dobek and Nemeth attended an A.L.I.C.E. training program in New Hampshire this past summer to prepare them for administering additional training to Ludlow High School staff.  This training further solidified their intent of readjusting the pre existing lockdown protocol.

“We really got to see what the true purpose is,” recalls Dobek.  “Through case-studies they showed us all the mistakes that have been made.  For instance, at Virginia Tech the gunman had gotten into a classroom, shot a couple kids, left the classroom, and the kids stayed there because they did not know any better.  The gunman came back later and shot some more.  If they had been trained differently they would have been out the door.”

This devastating mistake is not uncommon.  Think back to the Columbine shootings of 1999.  Students sat in a library for five minutes before the intruder shot them.  Why didn’t they try to get out while they had a chance? Immobilized by a faulty procedure, their cowering in the corner only helped the gunman.

During the staff training, teachers were brought through a series of scenarios to prepare them for a potentially dangerous situation.

“The first scenario they were told to follow the traditional lockdown procedure,” says Nemeth.  “The teachers realized how helpless they felt and how inappropriate our traditional lockdown was, to just sit there and try to figure out what was going on.”

“It was so out of context,” says Diana Sands, a science teacher at Ludlow High School.  “It was kind of upsetting, it made me uneasy. I’m in full support of the new protocol.  I have always been torn over the old lockdown system.”

Despite this positive feedback, all across the country controversy is growing over the “counter” aspect of A.L.I.C.E.  Critics question whether attempting to stop an invader could cause more deaths.

“In my opinion, there is no controversy,” says Nemeth.  “I understand that some people might literally take the word counter as ‘I need to do something to the intruder’ but that’s not what it is.  Counter means saving yourself.  If that means throwing something or pushing a cabinet in front of the door, that’s countering being a sitting duck.”

“It’s like a fire drill, the alarm goes off and you’re trained to get out.  A gunman isn’t that different,” says Dobek.  “If there were a dangerous person in the building, then why would we tell you to stay locked into the building?”

Common sense is what seems to drive the argument.  A senior at Ludlow High School, Alyssa Martins, agrees: “It’s actually common sense.  It would go against our instincts not to try to escape the shooter.”

“I think it’s a natural defense mechanism,” reiterates Sands.  “We’ve all heard the saying ‘fight or flight.’ If we’re in a life or death situation, then I’m in full support of fighting to protect my students as well as myself.”

With all the debate over what to do in a threatening situation, Dobek brings up the most essential and controllable aspect of the problem: Prevention.

“The important thing is trying to avoid these instances by having students come forward if they hear anything,” says Dobek. “Being proactive is the most important part.  We can train for what happens after, but we need to keep our eyes open for people who may be the issue.  Students need to remember that this is your school, it’s your safety.  If you hear any kind of threats, don’t be afraid to come forward because we need to stop incidents before they happen.”

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About the Contributor
Gina Orlandi, Feature Editor
Gina Orlandi, the Feature Editor for the Cub, is extremely excited for her first year of journalism because it gives her an excuse to do more of what she loves: writing.  Fueled with a passion for running, she is a varsity athlete for both track and cross country.  With an intense training schedule, she runs all year round.  Whether it’s for an upcoming season or a half marathon, she doesn’t let subfreezing temperatures or pouring rain keep her inside.  Being so outdoorsy, she loves finding new trails to hike, climbing large mountains, and doing anything else that can be classified as adventurous.  When she’s stuck inside with too much homework from one of her AP classes, she’s probably daydreaming about being a writer in Paris or heading west to California.  As an avid reader and writer, she’s always scribbling in her notebook or carrying around a good book.  Although she is new to the journalism scene, she hopes this is the first year of many.

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