Students taught to counteract active shooters

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COLUMBIA - Schools across the country are teaching their students how to respond if an intruder enters the building. The Columbia Public School District has changed its procedures over the last couple of years, and students said they feel safer with the new tactics. Some of these tactics however may surprise some.  

Active Intruder procedures nationwide have changed since the events of the Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary shootings. Some school districts including Columbia Public School District have adopted a new practice called ALICE Training. ALICE prepares students to find other options besides hiding, if possible.

Some fourth graders at Rock Bridge Elementary said they remember the old drills they did in kindergarten, and they think the way they do it now makes more sense.

"In Kindergarten we would just hide in a corner, but now that we know where [the intruder] is, we know to run from the building or find heavy or hard things [to throw]," Evan Mees said. 

Another fourth grade student, Jordyn Moore, said, "If we were all just shoved in a corner, we wouldn't know what to do or anything so it makes me feel a lot safer and better."

Columbia Public School District Community Relations Director Michelle Baumstark said research has shown a lot of the time there are better options for students than duck-and-cover.  

"You look at Columbine where a lot of the shootings happened in the library where kids were just hiding under desks," Baumstark said. "They were really close to an exit."

The new options are explained in the name ALICE. It is an acronym to further help children remember the procedures. Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate are all viable options when there is an active shooter in the building. 

With new technology in many schools, cameras can detect who is on the premises and, if already inside, where the shooter is in the building. With the new systems, no one is able to enter the school buildings without a key or buzzing in and being granted permission to enter by the front office.  

Knowing where the shooter is located is the key to the new tactics. If the intruder is said to be on one side of the building, that allows the other side to evacuate and run to a designated safe zone. 

For the classrooms on the side of the school with the intruder, they are to barricade the doors and prepare to evacuate through another door or window or to counter. 

Counter is the part of the acronym that has risen discussion. ALICE teaches to counteract if confronted by an active shooter. The idea is to throw heavy objects at the shooter to either injure or distract. This method depends on the age of the student and is stressed that it is an option of last resort.

Baumstark sent KOMU 8 some online videos that show examples of these procedures. One video showed high school students tackling an active shooter and "swarming him into subdue until police arrived".    

Some Columbia teachers have canned goods in place for the students to throw at the shooter to distract him long enough for them to run. These counter tactics have raised some questions, but the statistics prove they are the best options.

In a recently released FBI Report: "A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2013", it was stated that, "In 13.1 percent of incidents, the situation ended after unarmed citizens safely and successfully restrained the shooter. In 52 percent of those incidents, unarmed principals, teachers, other school staff and students confronted the shooters to end the threat. In 48 percent of those incidents, citizens, working or shopping when the shootings began, successfully restrained shooters until police could arrive. These actions likely saved the lives of students and others present."  

In some situations, waiting for the police to arrive is not an option. The study also found that 69 percent of the incidents lasted 5 minutes or less with 36 percent of those ending in 2 minutes or less.

"Some [CPSD] schools are able to evacuate an entire building in less than 30 seconds," Baumstark said. "That's because we practice, constantly practice." 

CPSD schools are still in the process of training all of their students. Drills are frequently done throughout the district, and speakers are brought in to go over the process.