Bellefontaine Examiner

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City school district reviews implementation of ALiCE program

Longtime band director set to retire

ALICE-presentation

Bellefontaine High School Assistant Principal Vinnie Spirko, left, and Bellefontaine Middle School Assistant Principal Matt Comstock discuss the ALiCE program for the school district. (EXAMINER PHOTO | MANDY LOEHR)

In the wake of the tragedy that struck in Connecticut last month, Bellefontaine City Schools officials reported at Monday evening’s board of education meeting about the implementation of an active shooter training that recently has gained attention in the local area.

All BCS district staff members were trained on the ALiCE program, standing for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evade, this fall through the Hardin County Sheriff’s Office. The program looks at practical ways to combat an intruder in a school.

Other school districts, including Riverside and Indian Lake, are also going through the training, and a story about the program was featured in Saturday’s Examiner.

Following staff training at BCS, officials are working to update emergency plans and procedures in light of the new information.

“We are putting steps in place to make modifications to our emergency procedures,” said Vinnie Spirko, assistant high school principal. “We’ve put a policy in place that we think is safer now.”

The ALiCE program is much different than the passive methods that previously had been taught in schools — to simply go into lockdown mode and then sit and wait for an attacker to enter a classroom.

Instead, this new training requires a more active response from school personnel and offers instructions for how to act and react to this kind of situation.

The first step “alert” relates to contacting law enforcement or people outside of the school to relay the information about the intruder.  

Next, staff members are still instructed to “lock down” classroom doors, and also are told to barricade with heavy objects and other methods to make it difficult for the intruder to enter the classroom.

“A shooter is looking to do as much damage as quickly as possible, and if it’s not easy to enter a classroom, they will move on to the next room,” said Matt Comstock, assistant middle school principal.

“Inform” is the third step and involves school officials giving information over a school’s announcement system about where the perpetrator is heading and what he is doing in the building.

As for the “counter” portion of ALiCE, this is the most controversial part of the program, Mr. Comstock said. Participants are taught that it is OK to attack or distract the shooter by using any kind of weapon available in the classroom, from throwing a pair of scissors, books or desks, instead of simply trying to hide from the perpetrator.

“ ‘Counter’ is a much better alternative than just cowering in a corner. Studies have shown that there is a higher body count when there is no resistance to a shooter,” the assistant middle school principal said.

“Evade” or escape is the last part of the acronym, relating to school staff members and students should try to get out of the school building to avoid the shooter. Though this is the final part of ALiCE, administrators noted that escaping the school would be the very first option for classrooms of students whenever possible.

Bellefontaine Police Department Chief Brandon Standley attended the meeting to share his thoughts about the active shooter training, which he also went through alongside school staff members during the fall.

“It’s an eye-opener,” he said. “What we liked about the program is it gives schools a chance to turn the tables on an aggressor. Why would we want to wait until someone gives the ‘all clear’ signal?

“You can be a part of the solution instead of sitting back and feeling helpless.”

In other matters, members accepted the retirement resignation of Joseph Antram, instrumental music teacher and longtime band director, effective May 31.

His 35-year career began in 1977 at West Liberty-Salem Schools, and Mr. Antram has served at BCS for 29 years.

During the organizational session that preceded the regular meeting, members re-elected Joan Haushalter as president and Dr. Todd Heydinger as vice president.

Regular meetings were continued for the second and fourth Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the board office. The first meeting will be structured as a committee of the whole session for the purposes of discussion and shared information, and the second meeting will serve as the business meeting.

Membership in the Ohio School Boards Association also was approved at a cost of $5,975.

Member Anne Reames was appointed as the OSBA delegate for the annual business meeting in November, and member Tim O’Rielley was named as the alternative delegate.

The next meeting is 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28.

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