By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — It’s something you do not even want to think about — an active shooter in one of the school buildings in Colfax or Elk Mound.
Unfortunately, in the two years since the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 26 students and staff members dead, there have been 100 more school shootings, said Eric Wright, principal at Elk Mound Middle School.
Because of the number of school shootings in recent years, school staff in Colfax and Elk Mound, along with Colfax Police Chief Bill Anderson and Kevin Bygd with the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department participated in Alert Lockdown Inform Counter and Evacuate (ALICE) training in Rice Lake and Cameron Middle School December 9 and 10.
The training helps law enforcement and school officials to be better prepared in the event of an active shooter in a school building.
Police Chief Anderson requested ALICE training at the Colfax Village Board’s November 24 meeting and said he had received a telephone call from Bill Yingst, Colfax school district administrator, about participating in the training.
The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved sending Police Chief Anderson to the training.
“I invited the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department, Captain Kevin Bygd, and our local police chief, Chief Anderson, to join the Colfax Team in the ALICE training along with me and our high school principal. Each of us were very impressed with the training and the common sense approach to increase the survivability of all involved,” Yingst said.
In addition to Yingst, Colfax High School principal John Dachel participated in the training from the Colfax school district.
“The ALICE training concept has given our schools some good, common sense options to help increase and insure the survivability of our students and staff in an active shooter situation … (ALICE) empowers staff and students to make decisions and react to a violent situation in a school setting with the goal of saving lives,” Yingst said.
In Elk Mound, one person from each building — elementary, middle school and high school — attended the training.
Representatives for both school districts say they intend to put together an ALICE training program for all staff members, and when the staff members have received training, to do a training session for students in both school districts. Parents also will be informed about the training.
Wright gave a report on the training at the Elk Mound Board of Education’s December 15 meeting.
During an emergency lock-down at a school, the doors are locked, the school children are kept away from the windows, and they sit quietly with the lights off, Wright said.
But in situations where there is an active school shooter, more students are killed if they stay in the classroom, he said.
The ALICE training concept is about giving more options to school staff and students, Wright said.
Instead of sitting in a corner and hoping the shooter does not come into the classroom, the ALICE concept says, “Why wait? Break the window, get out and go,” he said.
Classroom doors can be difficult or impossible to lock from the inside, so barricading the door with desks and chairs and anything else that can be moved is an option.
Evacuating the classroom is a better idea if it is at all possible, Wright said.
The number of deaths decrease if the door can be locked, and the number of deaths decrease even more if the classroom can be evacuated, he said.
“The ALICE concept builds on all of the accepted practices used by schools to date … the focus is proactive rather than reactive by empowering staff and students to think, react, and implement the options they train for,” Yingst said.
Wright told the Board of Education that staff members from Elk Mound who attended the training will put together a presentation and will train the staff. Then the students will be trained on how to barricade the doors and how to evacuate.
Parents also will be informed about the ALICE training, he noted.
“It is very good training. It creates more options to keep our students safer,” Wright said.
Yingst said he planned to hold a staff meeting the week of December 15 to give an introduction and overall summary of the ALICE concept.
“We will be training staff first and then students in their roles and the options they have in an active shooter or violent situation,” Yingst said.
“Our plan is to partner with the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department and our local law enforcement to provide more detailed training in possible active shooter scenarios. Safety is our first priority, he said.
Dr. Ron Walsh, Elk Mound district administrator, told the Board of Education he had signed up four more Elk Mound staff members to attend ALICE training next summer.
Yingst also plans to send more Colfax staff members to ALICE training.
A video on the ALICE concept from Auburn University also was shown to the Elk Mound Board of Education at their December 15 meeting.
Every student who enrolls at Auburn University much watch this ten-minute video, Wright noted.
“It’s a different perspective,” Dr. Walsh said.
“Survival is more important than accountability,” Wright said.
In other words, school principals would rather tell parents that their children broke the windows and escaped the building and “are up on that hill somewhere” — even though the principal does not know exactly where their children are — rather than telling parents “your child is here in a body bag,” Wright said.
“It’s a big shift in how you think about it,” he said.
Police Chief Anderson was asked for comment on the ALICE training, but due to circumstances beyond his control, has been unable to provide a response.