While school shootings are rare, and nobody likes to think they could happen in their community, school officials have a responsibility to make sure they are prepared for such an event, Bettendorf High School associate principal Joy Kelly said Tuesday.
“I think our mindset has to be, ‘This absolutely could happen here,’” Kelly told a group of about 30 parents gathered for a public information meeting about the district’s plan to adopt the Alert, Information, Counter and Escape, or ALICE, response system.
Kelly told the group she first received training in the ALICE system last spring, and the district already was moving toward adopting the system when 20 students and six adults were killed Dec. 14 by a shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Kelly said school and law enforcement officials began to rethink how to train teachers and students to respond to a school shooting after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, where 12 students and a teacher were shot and killed by two students.
Kelly played a five-minute audio clip of a 911 call made by a teacher at Columbine. The teacher can be heard telling students to stay under the tables in the library.
Bettendorf High School resource officer Bruce Schwarz said 10 of the 12 students who were killed that day were in the library, which was equipped with six or seven exits.
Kelly said the teacher should not be blamed.
“That’s how she was trained, and that’s what she knew to do,” she said.
The ALICE plan gives staff and students more options such as barricading doors, fleeing the school when possible and, if directly confronted by a shooter, distracting or subduing the shooter, to maximize their chances of survival.
Schwarz said anything students can do to make noise or distract a shooter helps interrupt the shooter’s decision-making process.
Students trained in the ALICE system are taught that if they are in a room with a shooter and have no immediate path of escape, they can distract the shooter by throwing things at his or her head to give themselves more time to escape.
Kelly emphasized that directly confronting a shooter is only a last resort.
Superintendent Theron Schutte said the ALICE system is one of several steps the district is considering to improve school safety. A new, high-security entrance to Bettendorf High School is expected to be completed in March, and the district is considering updating the security at the entrance to Bettendorf Middle School, Schutte said.
Schutte said district officials have not yet decided how, or if, to teach elementary school students about the ALICE plan because students that age are likely to follow the instructions of their teacher, and he has concerns about frightening the younger children.
“We’re going to walk the line pretty carefully,” he said.
After a second public meeting tonight, the school board is expected to hear a final presentation about the ALICE system next week, Kelly said.
Matt Lamere, who is the father of 3-year-old twins, a 4-year-old and a 7-year-old, said he thought the ALICE system was a good start, but that the district should do all it can to keep students safe.
Dan Newman said he was disappointed by the turnout at Tuesday’s meeting about such an important topic, adding that he and his wife, Brianne, were pleased that the district was implementing the ALICE system.
Brianne Newman said the couple’s 10-year-old son, the oldest of their four children, was on the edge of the age where the topic of school shootings could be discussed frankly.
“This is really going to give us some tools to use to talk to him,” she said.
The Pleasant Valley School District also has scheduled public information meetings about implementing the ALICE system. The meetings will be 6:30 p.m. Feb. 4 at Hopewell Elementary School, 3900 Hopewell Ave., Bettendorf, and at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 7 at Bridgeview Elementary, 316 S. 12th St., LeClaire.
Several other local school districts, including North Scott, Clinton and the Central Community School District in Davenport are implementing the ALICE system.
Another public meeting for Bettendorf
Community School District parents about the ALICE system will be 6-7 p.m. today at
Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency,
800 23rd St., Bettendorf.