COOS BAY – Another gunman terrorized children at a school on Tuesday, this time in rural Rancho Tehama, Calif.
In the wake of the recent shootings, Coos County Sheriff Craig Zanni told The World that he is always concerned about the kids in the community.
“Like the storm on Monday, no one expected the winds or rain,” he said. “I went home to do a specific project, looked out and thought I didn’t need a coat. I went to the garage and had to change my clothes just after walking 50 feet. There’s always potential for things to go wrong.”
Local school districts have adopted the ALICE program in recent years, a program developed by a police officer out of Texas in response to school shootings. It teaches staff and students to move around, escape, and/or fight back rather than simply lock down and hide.
The Coos Bay School District is taking the ALICE training a step further.
“Since adopting the program, we’ve been presenting ALICE to our staff and then presenting it to the high school kids in the auditorium as a Q&A session,” said district safety and facilities manager Rick Roberts. “The approach that the district, our school resource officer and the Coos Bay Police Department are considering now is an organizational certification accomplished through blended training.”
Individual staff members can now view ALICE presentations online to earn an individual certification and then hold drill trainings in classrooms to run through various shooter scenarios. Those scenarios include how to barricade a door or what to do if the room is breached.
“Right now we have 75 percent of the district completed in learning that portion, then we do scenario training and get the organizational certification,” Roberts said. “We have course curriculum in our elementary schools that are age-appropriate. We have our teachers cover and show videos to our older kids in the district, so it’s a little bit of the same, but we’ve adopted ALICE as a way to mitigate an active shooter response.”
Combined with this training and the district’s emergency protocol in a lock down or lock out situation, Roberts feels that students and teachers are better prepared if the worst should happen.
“We’re still reviewing how this will best serve the district in the organizational certification part,” Roberts said. “Of course, sometimes the best course of action is to just leave and if that’s not an option then they will know what to do. The days of just sitting in the corner with the lights out and not being proactive is what we want to steer away from. We want to come up with better ideas to survive something like this.”
Though Sheriff Zanni approves of anything that helps keep children and citizens safe, he hopes that programs such as ALICE aren’t let go before it’s been given a chance.
“Ideas like this are great,” he said. “It’s much like the DARE program. Over the years, DARE failed because so many schools only had it in the fifth grade. It was never intended to be only used in one grade, but also in seventh, ninth and 11th grades. It was supposed to be repeated, not about the same things, but built on the foundation made in fifth grade. Everyone thought it was a great idea, but only adopted the cheap part which was just the fifth grade portion and that’s where it stopped.
“Anything that protects the kids is a great idea,” he continued. “But my concern is that someone introduces it, we talk about it for a while, and then we’re distracted and drop it to move on to the next thing. We lack consistency in programs we establish to help protect people. We have to be consistent about it.”
For Roberts, keeping kids safe is his and the district’s highest priority and the ALICE program is just a piece of it.
“We’re vigilant,” he said. “We listen to radio traffic, constantly monitor the buildings from a safety perspective and are more cognizant today than in years past because of our history. Being the safety manager in addition to the facilities manager means that I walk through the school with an overall safety perspective. In this day and age, you can’t afford to approach your school or facility with any different perspective than that.
“We do this with a purpose,” he said. “It’s about keeping our kids safe.”