'ALICE' active shooting training evolves as school shootings continue

Texas School Shooting
Posted at 5:48 PM, May 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 19:12:13-04

CLEVELAND — Following the Texas school shooting that killed 19 children and two adults, schools are taking a closer look at how they are preparing for active shooter situations.

On Tuesday afternoon, a gunman entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde with a handgun and possibly a rifle, Gov. Greg Abbott said.

It was the deadliest shooting at a U.S. grade school since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, almost a decade ago.

RELATED: Day after Texas mass school shooting, names of victims being released

In 2021, the FBI said there were 61 active shooter incidents across the United States, adding they’ve noticed an increase in the number of times citizens' involvement slows down or stops the shooter.

After 13 people died at Columbine high school in 1999, schools drastically changed how they prepare and react to school shootings. In Ohio, that led to required training in school districts.

“It’s a brutal reality and a brutal truth,” Cleveland State University Police Officer Toni Jones said. “Seconds are bullets and bullets are bodies.”

For almost a decade, Jones has been teaching “ALICE” training, which stands for “alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate.”

An evolving program, not meant to prevent active shooters, but to help students and staff stay alive, and now standard for incoming students at Cleveland State.

“We’ve learned from this,” Jones said. “It’s giving us a chance. We’re not standing there saying, ‘what do you want me to do?’ Kids are no longer huddling in a corner and hiding. They're taking action, they’re evacuating.”

But as Jones points out, by the time students walk on campus, it’s not new training, it’s adding to the foundation of ALICE training done in high school, middle school, and often elementary school.

“We’re building on what they’ve already learned,” she explained. “Unfortunately they’ve been raised in this culture. We’ve built on that.”

But even as training like this is inevitably needed going forward, school experts told News 5 just as important is making sure preparing isn’t doing its own kind of damage.

Dr. Tiffany Darby retired from public education right before the pandemic, spending decades as a licensed professional clinical counselor at places such as CMSD.

“We can’t prevent [the potential trauma,] so how do we help them cope through it?” she asked. “As adults, we have to do a little bit more explaining, updating and letting them know why we’re doing this and why this is here. Otherwise, they would have this fear. They have this fear, ‘Somebody must be coming with a gun, that's why this metal detector is here.’ No, it’s here so someone doesn’t.”

Jones, News 5 there’s more balance today than there was when this kind of training began more than 10 years ago, preparing for a physical attack while protecting the emotional toll.

But as time has shown us, these skills extend beyond a classroom.

“There hasn’t been a venue that's been untouched, whether it's a religious venue, a supermarket, a grocery, a theater, a classroom, a park, a car lot, it doesn’t matter because every venue has been touched,” she said.