Educators throughout North Kitsap School District have been receiving training on how to respond to an active shooter on campus. Previously, teachers and students were taught to hunker down in one place. Now, teachers are being taught to barricade, distract and fight back using a system known as ALICE.
On Tuesday, Aug. 28, several sharp blasts from an airhorn kicked off a muffled thunderstorm through the hallways of Kingston Middle School as teachers worked to stack desks, chairs and bookcases against classroom doors, barricading themselves inside.
Holding a bright orange nerf gun, Izzy Flaherty, a special education para-educator, walked the halls. With help from Kitsap County sheriff’s deputy Mark McVey, Flaherty played the role of the shooter, going from classroom to classroom, testing the doors in an attempt to get inside and “kill” the occupants. At one point, finding one door open but barricaded, Flaherty raised the nerf gun toward the occupants inside but could not get a shot. Flaherty encountered one of the key aspects of ALICE training, which sets it apart from previous active shooter protocol.
ALICE is an acronym standing for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. Another element employed by ALICE is teachers “countering the shooter as a last resort, throwing items and using anything at their disposal to distract the person.
Michael Olsen is the director of student support for North Kitsap schools. During the training, Olsen said it was his sincerest hope that ALICE would be the training that teachers would never have to use throughout their careers.
“The reality is nobody in this room got into education to have the conversation we’re going to have and to go through the training we’re going to be going through,” he said. “But all of your lives and all of our students’ lives cannot be gambled on a maybe.
“This isn’t a fun conversation. It isn’t a fun way to spend our day, but your lives and the lives of your students are worth whatever preparation we need to make to keep you guys safe,” he added.
North Kitsap School District superintendent Laurynn Evans said after attending multiple trainings this week she is feeling better about the security of North Kitsap schools.
“I feel a lot better about it after this week of training,” Evans said “The physical layout of many of our campuses is very challenging. They were all built before this was a reality in our public schools. But I feel that our staff’s action and their preparedness is now much greater than it was a year ago. I have confidence in their ability to respond appropriately. We are doing everything that we can within our power — with the facilities that we have — to keep our kids safe.”
—Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at email@example.com