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Ravenna parents learn safety procedures

By Diane Smith | Staff Writer Published: February 23, 2013 4:00 AM
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Ravenna parents and police discussed how to prepare for a day they hope will never come.

The Ravenna School District hosted a meeting Thursday to discuss the district's new safety measures in light of recent school shootings. A.L.I.C.E. training is designed to go beyond lockdown to provide teachers and students with more options in the event of a shooting.

Superintendent Dennis Honkala said when a shooting took place at Chardon High School, it affected him personally because he started his administrative career at Chardon.

"If you think a tragedy like this can't happen in any district, let alone Ohio, let alone Geauga or Portage County, you need to think again," Honkala said. "Some of the first calls I got asked, 'Can you guarantee my child is safe?' We can't guarantee that, but we can guarantee that safety will be our first priority."

Sgt. Jason Smallfield of the Ravenna Police Department said locking down students in classrooms is a "good starting point" but shooters have adapted and have used it to their advantage.

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A shooter can easily shoot the lock off of a door, making the cowering students "soft targets," or easy prey, Smallfield said.

"A.L.I.C.E." stands for the following steps to be taken in the event of a school shooting:

Alert students and staff by getting the word out. Instead of using vague words "Code Red" the announcement would be more clear and concise, informing everyone in the building, including a shooter, that they are aware of his presence.

Lock down students in a secure area.

Inform -- Give students and staff real-time information about the shooter's movements, in order to keep the shooter off-balance and allow for good decision making.

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Counter -- Apply skills to distract, confuse, and/or barricade. These include barricading classroom doors, using anything in the room as a projectile, and running in a zig-zag pattern.

Evacuate -- Decrease the number of potential targets for the shooter and reduce the odds of having victims resulting from friendly fire when help arrives.

Smallfield said in some cases, the procedure can go directly from alert to evacuation. Students would be given "rally points" to meet other students and teachers. Parents would not be asked to pick up their children at the school, because all students will be bused to another location to be picked up by their parents, and parents would be alerted to that location via media and Alert Now automated phone calls.

"We would need to account for every child who was in school that day," Smallfield said.

Honkala pointed out that the district already has several safety measures in place. All school doors are locked during the day, and video cameras and buzzers have been installed at each door. School staff was informed about A.L.I.C.E. during a three-hour training session. Students, he said, will get age-appropriate training from the Ravenna Police Department at school assemblies this spring.

The district plans to ask voters to approve a school levy in November, and Honkala said he hopes the Board of Education will include $300,000 to upgrade security, install more cameras and hire a second school resource officer to work in the school buildings.

Some parents asked if state funding could be used for this purpose, and whether it would be less expensive to train staff to use weapons.

Honkala said traditionally, state legislators have put the burden back on the local communities, and he is uncomfortable with anybody other than a trained police officer firing a weapon in a building.

"At the end of the day, it's still a school, and they're still our babies," he said.

Amanda Suffecool, a local firearms instructor and A.L.I.C.E. instructor, said she thinks the program is a fabulous one, and said it's not about firing at intruders.

"In all honesty, you're too busy trying to get out of Dodge," she said.

Parent Jeanene Batt, who lived in Colorado during the Columbine shootings, said she learned that the offenders had a very detailed plan of action. She liked the part of the plan that calls for people in the building to distract and confuse shooters.

"Anything you do to mess up that plan, they don't realize what's happening next," she said.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1139 or dsmith@recordpub.com

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anonymous Feb 23, 2013 5:35 AM

A.L.I.C.E. is a reactionary program to promote some type of protocol when an active shooter(s) are in a school while the local police department and other law enforcement agencies are responding. This program does nothing to stop the shooter or protect the children who are in harms way. This year the applications for ccw permits are increasing and as the article in today's paper indicates gun sales are going thru the roof. People are arming themselves to protect their families and themselves while in public. I am not a NRA member, I believe in CCW program. The A.L.I.C.E. is a sugar coating program until the police arrive. It would not of saved the students at Chardon or Newtown. We need trained and armed personnel in our schools. Let the teachers and other school personnel who are CCW qualiifed with additional training carry their weapon while in school. Throwing a stapler at a person holding a weapon and who is set on doing damage to our children is not the answer. A good person with a gun can and just might stop a bad person with a gun. The bad guy does not it expect, our schools currently are "gun-free" zones or gun-free killing zones. Remember, ALICE will not prevent a gun-free killing zone. Arming school personnel WILL.