ACPS hosted its first Safety Forum last month and we were inundated with excellent questions about what we are doing to keep our students safe.
Our expert panel included Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings Jr, early childhood advocate Susan Keightley, ACPS Coordinator for Security & Safety John Contreras, ACPS Mental Health Specialist Faiza Jackson and Alexandria Police Chief Michael L. Brown.
We are delighted to announce that Alexandria PTAC received the “Advocate of the Month” National PTA award for this event held at T.C. Williams High School Minnie Howard Campus.
If you weren’t able to attend, we have rounded up a selection of questions and answers.
||Is there any research being done regarding whether ALICE training is the best solution to dealing with violent intruders? What are the alternatives?
Seven states have already adopted ALICE as their official training for violent intruder situations and our research has shown that, with some minor adjustments, it provides a good model that can work within ACPS. The training provides options for staff and students that goes further than “Run, Hide, Fight.” Of course, ACPS will continue to evaluate other programs but we believe that ALICE is one of the best available at this time.
|How does ALICE affect students’ mental health overall? Is there any attention to the trauma that AlICE might inflict on students?
We make our Student Support Teams (SST) available every time a drill is conducted and encourage both staff and students to utilize them as much as necessary. We are keeping records on how often they are utilized and the types of issues addressed. Given that response programs such as ALICE are relatively new to schools, however, this is something that school divisions, including ACPS, are only beginning to study.
|What data or studies exist in support of ALICE? There are articles online about how it is dangerous.
The Department of Education conducted numerous studies prior to its recommendation in 2013 that schools move to multi-option response systems such as ALICE. News media often looks for the negative, but when we invited NBC4 to come and look at our program, they interviewed parents and staff and ended up doing a really positive story.
|Can APD make arrests at ACPS? Can ACPS call APD for children? Are School Resource Officers armed?
The answer is yes to all of the above questions. APD can make arrests on school property, as they can anywhere in the City. ACPS can report crimes committed by children to APD and SROs are fully qualified and certified police officers employed by APD and are armed. Interaction between ACPS and APD is guided by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) based on the state model which can be viewed on the Department of Criminal Justice Services website. ACPS has a good relationship with the Alexandria Police Department and its officers and our SROs do so much more in schools than just enforce the law. They actively work with our school staff to ensure our students remain safe.
|When will parents get clear and detailed information on ALICE?
It is our goal to communicate openly and clearly with all stakeholders. We have standard parent communications that should be shared with all parents. This includes a parent Q&A session with a presentation prior to the start of any drills. It also includes a series of parent letters, one to be sent out ahead of each drill. It is our goal to have all ALICE materials available on our website in English, Spanish, Arabic and Amharic shortly.
|Do teachers have an anonymous tip line to voice concerns about discipline & safety policies?
Yes. We are encouraging students, staff and parents to use the ACPS tip line in the ACPS mobile app to report anything suspicious. This can be done anonymously. Please feel free to show students how to use this tip line if you deem it appropriate. In addition, the City of Alexandria has a 24-hour hotline at 703-746-5400 to report bullying or any crisis events for young people (ages 5-18).
Learn more by reading our Emergency Procedures FAQ.
|What you are doing to prevent gang activity in schools?
We utilize mentoring programs, extra-curricular sports and all of our counseling and mental health resources within our system to establish strong mentoring relationships with students which deter them from gang membership. ACPS is a member of the City-wide Gang Prevention Task Force, which meets regularly and employs various strategies to deal with this problem. We have a close relationship with the APD, who have two SROs assigned to T.C. Williams High School.
Learn more about our School Board’s policy on gangs (PDF).
|Is ACPS planning to add more counselors and social workers to provide proactive measures to prevent gun violence in schools?
ACPS continues to create social-emotional and mental health curriculum and supports in schools to meet the needs of students. As programs such as social-emotional and academic learning (SEAL) and multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) are fully developed and implemented, staffing supports for these and other initiatives will continue to be reviewed and prioritized as part of the standard budget cycle.
Learn more about the work of our school counselors.
|How was the appropriate age decided for ALICE? Elementary school students don’t always have the skills to throw something at a shooter, cover their body and run simultaneously. What age is this right for?
ALICE recommends their techniques for all ages. ACPS has made certain age-appropriate modifications to their recommendations when we implement our version of the program. Our curriculum is vetted by career educators, mental health workers and safety personnel who have all guided our work.
Learn more about our division-wide safety drills.
|Kids are going through the motions of ALICE yet not connecting it to prevention. How do we change that?
We are striving to conduct the best training for a large and very diverse group of students and staff. The most important thing to remember is that ALICE gives options. Not everyone has to implement everything from every drill. It is different from other drills in that it relies on the individual in each situation to make decisions as they think appropriate, or take actions they feel able to take. The goal of AlICE training is to empower staff and students to take action to prevent harm or injury in the event of a violent intruder. It is not a rule book.
We welcome input about our training, and recognize that people will have different reactions based on their personal situations and experiences.
Learn more about the work of our school psychologists.