Co-authored by Austin Westray
This year, Centennial’s administration implemented a new policy for potential intruders entering the school. When asked when he realized our previous intruder system wasn’t capable of protection, principal Greg Johnson admitted, “I’ve always been aware.” In the unfortunate event of a unwanted visitor or a current student attacker entering the school teachers had been previously told to move their students to the corner of the classroom where they cannot be seen, lock the doors from outside of the classroom, and wait quietly with their class. It’s always been known that this was a sketchy idea – If an armed stranger came into the room, is hiding really going to save the most lives?
Forced entrances like Columbine and Virginia Tech are never a comfortable topic of discussion. It is often hard to imagine the irreversible consequences that may occur, but with the right precautions and a good strategy, the amount of negative outcomes can be greatly reduced. That is why Centennial students were asked to listen and watch a powerpoint regarding the new guidelines, ALICE.
The powerpoint explained the acronym of ALICE, which represents what we are supposed to follow during an intrusion. Our principal, Greg Johnson takes the first step by “Alerting” Centennial staff and students of the potential intrusion over the intercom. We are supposed to “Listen” while Johnson is on the intercom “Informing” us of the intruders location. Instead of hiding in the corners and under desks, students are told to “Counter” and fight back and if necessary and possible, we are supposed to “Evacuate.”
“The new system is just common sense,” says Centennial sophomore Jay Smith, “What we were doing before, just sitting and waiting, was literally helping them [the attacker] do what they wanted to do.” Sophomore Jahlina Cekander agreed. “If we had kept the old routine,” she said, “we would be making the person successful.”
Last year, Officer Wahala participated in a hands-on training course with ALICE, and brought it to Johnson’s attention. “It was required by the state to implement ALICE,” Johnson explained, “but Centennial was really ready to get started.”
A few Centennial administrators also participated in the hands on type training. They had an extremely long, four-hour powerpoint, before doing three simulations, the first being a Code Red. During this the participants were told to wait under the desks in the event of an attack, while a person played the part of the intruder with a BB Gun. Many were shot, including Mr. Neitzel, who evidently was “shot up in the butt” (described by Johnson.) “I was protecting Mrs. Schoonover!” Neitzel claimed. He then added, “It hurt. A lot.”
“It was hard,” Johnson said, “a little scary and sobering. It was like a big slap in the face.” Seeing how negatively the previous policy worked really opened up Johnson’s eyes, and effected him not only as a teacher and administrator, but also as a person. “It was one of the clearest training sessions I’ve ever been to.” he said.
After the Code Red they then went through a “Ball Throwing” type experiment, in which a person was told to throw a ball back and forth with someone while others were throwing balls at the individual. It didn’t work very well, and the person lost focus and accuracy, which proves the theory behind Countering the intruder. He or she will not be able to aim and fire with accuracy, thus reducing the amount of injuries and casualties.
The last simulation was the included ALICE training incorporated in the attack setting. By using all the steps in the system, there was substantially less amount of people shot and the attack, thankfully, was unsuccessful.
All of the Centennial staff had to go through a similar powerpoint that students did to familiarize themselves with the policy, but they did not have to go through the attack simulations. One of Centennial’s own had their lives unfairly taken due to the effects of the Virginia Tech shooting. This topic of invasion protocol in relation to the Virginia Tech shooting deeply impacted some of Centennial’s teachers, who had taught the student in the past. “After I showed the powerpoint, I had a teacher thank me while she was crying,” Johnson told the Centinal. The emotional strain was powerful, and saying that it was “really difficult” would be an extreme understatement.
“Hopefully the training will never change Centennial.” Johnson confessed. What he means is that he hopes that they will never have to use ALICE. If the referendum passes, Johnson has even more ideas to further safety in the school including more automatic locking doors that you will have to be buzzed in to enter and better locks, although he says custodians are already on that.
When asked if there was anything else he thought Centennial students should know about ALICE, he replied, “Be calm.” and then added with reassurance, “ALICE is designed to save lives.”