Haverhill Schools’ Adopts ALICE Program: How to Talk to Your Kids, What to Expect from Active Shooter Drills

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Does your child know what to do in the event of an active shooter situation? Come November, Haverhill Public Schools officials hope each student in the city’s 16 schools will feel empowered to make the right decisions after taking part in the first of three ALICE active shooter drills.

Kicking off the district’s formal ALICE program this week with two community outreach meetings, Superintendent Margaret Marotta and Director of Safe and Supportive Schools Scott Gray recently sat down with WHAV to discuss the nationally recognized program along with Haverhill High School wellness teacher Cara LaBelle, who helped train 1,400 staffers in August through hands’ on drills.

The ALICE program—an acronym for “Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate”—builds on the traditional method of sheltering in place, Gray tells WHAV. While not mandated by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Gray said the ALICE method is one of several safety protocols adopted by schools to keep students safe in the wake of mass shootings and other incidents of school violence.

“The traditional method 10 years ago across the country was a lockdown,” Gray said. “It wasn’t until the mass shootings occurred that people are now saying that a lockdown is a crucial component but it isn’t necessarily the best method if the armed intruder is in the other side of the building and other people could evacuate.”

As part of Haverhill’s three-year ALICE rollout, started last year, 46 administrators—including teachers, principals and central office staff—attended a two-day training to become certified ALICE instructors in November 2018. At least two people are ALICE certified in each school. This year, all staff took part in a 45-minute e-learning program and all teachers completed seven scripted active shooter scenarios on Aug. 26.

With all administrators now trained, Gray and Marotta now plan to discuss the program with families ahead of the first student drill in November. A community outreach meeting is scheduled for Tuesday night at Consentino Middle School from 7-8:30 p.m.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Gray and Marotta intend to detail the rollout of the age-appropriate K-12 curriculum, which includes coloring books for younger children, and live drills for older students. All drills are overseen by the Haverhill Fire Department and Haverhill Police Department school resource officers and trainers Sgt. Nick Brown and Officer Scott Ziminski, Gray said.

The ALICE framework takes great care to address the needs of all students, including those with disabilities or other special needs including autism, for example. Above all, says Gray, is the goal of arming students with a “life skill” to use in and out of the classroom.

“What would you do at a shopping mall if you went to the Northshore Mall and heard gunfire? If the gunfire’s there, you’re going to have to fight or flight,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is not just empower the adults but the children on how to survive if there’s an unfortunate situation like this.”

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