Are The Students Prepared?

Sean Yoder, Staff Writer

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Over 5,000 school districts across all 50 states have adopted the ALICE drill, including the Pennridge School District. ALICE, an intruder lockdown procedure that has protection and safety of the students as its priority, has replaced the traditional “lockdown and hide” drill taught for years. This newly introduced system focuses on five areas to provide the best possible outcome: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. However, Pennridge students rarely have to undergo ALICE practice drills, and when they do, it doesn’t accurately simulate the surprising and unpredictable aspects that would be found in a real drill.

Fire drills are held once a month at the high school, and often without warning (although sometimes the word gets around). This frequent practice helps students learn to react and evacuate the school without anticipating it. ALICE drills, however, only are held a few times during the entire school year. In a world where school shootings and intruder incidents are becoming much more frequent, a few drills are not enough to prepare students. Students are also told of the drills in advance, so they don’t have to act decisively as if it were a real emergency.

The school almost always holds their ALICE drills during 9th period. It may be a convenient period for the drill to be held in this period, but an intruder can enter at any time of the school day. In the Columbine High School massacre, shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold intentionally chose to attack when a large portion of students were in the cafeteria during lunch. In the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Nikolas Cruz began shooting students in the hallway after pulling a fire alarm. History has shown that students need to be prepared for an intruder emergency at any time of the day.

Also, during the few drills Pennridge has, the intruder is almost always located in the same two places: Mr. Ott’s office or in the language hallway. Just like the timing of the drills, the intruder can be anywhere in the building in an emergency. The combination of the same timing and the predictable location makes the drills not very helpful for students and much less realistic.

Timothy Busch, a teacher at Pennridge High School, believes the district should change how they conduct ALICE drills. He wants the district to “hold the drills once a month and at different times of day,” in order for the drills to be more realistic. He also thinks that no one should be told of the location in advance.

However, there are potential negative consequences with these changes. Firstly, making the drills more realistic would cause some students to panic. Many students are already paranoid from what they read on the news, so making a realistic drill could cause many of them to stress. Also, if the drills were held during lunches or in between classes, it would be chaotic trying to get them back to class or lunch. Many students might also complain that they would lose lunch time.

Although it could bring some unwanted consequences, proper and realistic ALICE training has the potential to save lives. Drills at Pennridge need to provide different situations at different times of day, and they need to be held more often. These changes should be able to better prepare students for an intruder emergency.