With another school shooting incident this week and in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting tragedy, local schools continue to update their emergency procedures especially for scenarios involving an active/armed intruder. There is no longer a “one size fits all” strategy taught students.
Baby boomers learned the “duck and cover” emergency response for tornadoes, hurricanes and the threat of a nuclear attack. Now students need a variety of tools to stay safe during emergencies. Emergency skills being taught range from complete silence, to random but focused movement.
In the Bass Lake Joint Union Elementary School (BLJUESD) and Yosemite Unified School (YUSD) Districts, students and staff are using training materials from the ALICE Training Institute: www.alicetraining.com.
The Madera County Sheriff’s Office has also been involved in this training. “Since November, 2017, I have personally done over 45 presentations to over 1,200 people teaching them ways to stay safe during an active shooter [situation],” said Deputy Jack Williamson, assigned to the Problem Oriented Policing Team. “I teach the ALICE (acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) presentation for schools and the RUN.HIDE.FIGHT program to everyone else.”
Williamson ends his presentations, which last about an hour, explaining a program that trains civilians how to help stop major bleeding.
“It appears, that due to the frequency of mass shooting in our country, more and more people are concerned about their safety as well as their family and are seeking additional training,” he said.
Books used to present the ALICE program in each classroom on BLJUSD campuses were purchased with $200 mini-grants from the Sierra Oakhurst Kiwanis Club.
ALICE training gives schools a protocol to follow should there be a “dangerous someone,” in their school. “I’m Not Scared. . .I’m Prepared!: Because I Know All About Alice” is the student training book title.
To introduce younger students to the ALICE program, teachers use the story of “The Three Little Pigs,” who try to escape from the big, bad wolf. For them in ALICE: “A” stands for ‘alert’ there’s a wolf, a dangerous someone at the school; “L” means there is a need to lock down; “I” is for inform - we need to tell others we have seen a wolf around; “C” is for counter - if the wolf sees us, we must do things to ruin his day; and “E” is for evacuate - leave the building and run away.
“The times we are raising our children have changed drastically,” said Heather Archer, Wasuma Elementary School principal. “In addition to teaching students reading, writing and being respectful to others, schools must now also teach students what to do in [a variety of] emergency situations. We’re empowering our kids and giving them tools, not just scaring them.”
“We want to change the school climate and the culture of school and we want to have a safe school, said Kathleen Murphy, Oakhurst Elementary School principal. “School is a place they [students] are respected and honored, a place where they are free to have conversations. We have to change the culture so children feel they are not tattling.”
“We want students to keep their eyes and ears open. The staff is focused on building positive relationships and a positive school culture.” Students are encouraged to tell an adult about something unusual or if someone they know is acting in an unexpected manner.
“Have we ever had a wolf on campus?” asked kindergarten teacher Vivien Cooley attempting to allay any fears the students might have.
“No, but we had a bear,” responded one kindergartener. And wild animals including a bear and a mountain lion have been spotted in the past on the perimeters of some of the mountain area campuses and one campus was invaded by a pack of rogue dogs.
“I wouldn’t say my job has changed [in light of the recent school shootings] other than safety inquires from local media, parents, students and staff,” said Dave Maynez, Director of Campus Safety for YUSD which includes Yosemite High School and Coarsegold and Rivergold Elementary Schools, “Although I have given updates on active/armed intruder response training to staff in the district the last two weeks.”
“Four years ago when I was first employed here at YUSD, I met with incoming Sheriff [Jay] Varney to discuss the different active shooter civilian response training programs. We agreed that ALICE active shooter civilian response training was the best program. I, along with a few deputies, took the instructor course. I then began training the faculty at all of the schools in the district. The following school year we began training all high school students as well as the elementary school students fifth grade through eighth grade. We also continued with all staff.”
Maynez has 23 years experience in law enforcement retiring four years ago from the Fresno Police Department. As a law enforcement officer, he trained in active shooter response following the Columbine school shooting incident. While a law enforcement officer, he responded to an active shooter call in which there were several casualties.
Student Response to Training
“What our teachers have taught us is more than procedures, it’s what to remember even after the adrenaline kicks in,” said Wasuma eighth grader Tessa Butcher. “The biggest thing my teachers told us was to ‘stop, look and listen.’ But we’re also informed that stopping, looking and listening may not be the only thing required to ensure the most possible amount of safety. The best thing to remember is: hiding isn’t always an option, that’s where taking action comes into play.”
“I have learned that if I hear an alarm and I am [not] in my class, to go to the nearest classroom or bathroom and hide,” said Oak Creek seventh grader Quinn Daniella Bush. “The thing they told us to remember are run, hide, fight if you have to.”
Note: Businesses or groups may schedule training with Deputy Williamson. He has provided training to churches, businesses, county offices, utility companies, pre-school teachers, leaders and service organizations. There is no charge for this training and he may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 642-3201 ext. 113 at the Oakhurst Substation.