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Schools to train for active role in survival
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MONROE - The Monroe school district will be taking a new approach this year to possible situations involving a dangerous person in school buildings.

Over the summer, 11 district employees - all administrators - received training for a program called "A.L.I.C.E." ALICE teaches individuals involved in an attacker situation, such as a school shooting, to take a more active role in their survival, rather than the standard school lockdowns.

Monroe High School Principal Chris Medenwaldt said the training required practicing what to do if there was an active shooter and running through different scenarios. Current practices would have teachers and students wait in a dark classroom, which they tried during the training.

"It was eerie to be basically sitting in a dark room and waiting for somebody to come," Medenwaldt told the school board at a meeting Monday. "Even though you knew it was fake, it still didn't feel very good. You felt helpless.

"This is what I'm going to do? Really? This is what I'm going to do? And after that I think it clicked for all of us. No, this is not what we're going to do."

ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate, but the order of the words aren't meant to indicate the order actions should necessarily be taken.

Alert is the way people in a scenario find out about the danger - such as by the sound of a gunshot, loud noises or a text.

Lockdown is a "starting point," said Joe Monroe, the director of pupil services. In many instances, barricading a door might be enough to keep an attacker out, but sometimes barricades and locks might only be a time barrier.

Inform is about informing those in the building of what's specifically going on, as close to a play-by-play of the shooter's whereabouts as possible. That way students and staff can make better decisions on what course of action to take.

Counter encompasses actions that might throw off or distract the shooter, such as shouting, moving or throwing something.

Evacuation is the main goal and includes teaching students, especially younger children, to "run silly," instead of running straight, Medenwaldt said. It also calls for having a pre-determined place to run to once away from immediate danger.

"It (ALICE) is really the idea that you can do what's best for you in your scenario," Medenwaldt said. "It might mean that you swarm somebody, it might mean that you barricade, it might mean all sorts of things. The idea is that you have choices and that you are free to do what's best with the information you have coming in to make sure you can survive."

According to District Administrator Cory Hirsbrun-ner, active plans like ALICE that include decision-making are recommended by the U.S. Department of Education, Wisconsin School Safety Coordinators Association, the FBI and other organizations.

Administrators who attended the ALICE training sessions in June and August are now qualified trainers, Hirsbrunner said. They will begin by rolling out information and training district staff this fall. Then students will be taken through "developmentally appropriate discussions" on hypothetical scenarios and will eventually run practice drills.

Monroe said students won't all be prepared in the same way because of the differences in age and development.

Two Monroe police officers also attended one of the ALICE sessions. Hirsbrunner said the district has been coordinating with the police department, and police are aware of the district's plans. She said the district will continue to communicate with police, the fire department, EMS and other community resources as the new safety plans are implemented. Parents of students in the district will also receive more information about the scenarios and drills throughout the year.

"None of us like to have to plan for these things, but unfortunately it's a part of our world," Monroe said.