School safety is a top priority at Bishop Marshall and we want to make sure that our Emergency Operations Plan stays current with the latest best practices in order to keep all who enter our building safe. Ten years ago, when schools around the country were beginning to implement Emergency Operations Plans in response to Columbine and other violent critical incidents in our schools, All Saints Catholic Academy created one too. After Sandy Hook in 2012, we updated our school visitor policy and made sure all of our exterior doors remained locked during the school day. It became required that any volunteer or non-staff person check in at our school office and receive an identifying badge. Our safety plan is revised yearly to update new information or procedures as we learn about them from local law enforcement.
Most recently in 2017-18, the school implemented a new school safety measure called ALICE. It is an acronym that stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. It is a program that teaches organizations and individuals how to proactively respond to an aggressive intruder or active shooter event. This new protocol replaces our outdated response to a traditional lockdown. ALICE provides its users with alternatives to just locking the door, shutting off the lights, and hiding in the corner which is what many schools use for lockdown procedures. ALICE is being implemented in various schools and organizations all over the country. Its strategies have been developed and proven to be effective as violence in workplaces, churches, hospitals, and schools increases.
All Saints Catholic Academy faculty and staff have been trained by Mrs. Nordenson, a certified ALICE instructor, and several officers from the Morristown Police Department. All Saints Catholic Academy staff are required to complete a one hour e-learning module yearly and participated in a two-hour hands-on training in which local police officers helped to act as active shooters so that staff could practice how to respond using their new knowledge. Staff also learned and practiced how to properly secure and barricade doors using furniture, ropes, and other accessible classroom supplies.
You are probably wondering, what about the students? Isn’t this scary for them? How are they trained? All great questions. Our school administrators and staff handle this very carefully. With initial implementation in 2017-18, our students were taught in grade level groups using grade appropriate language and materials. Younger students enjoyed listening to the story I’m Not Scared, I’m Prepared by Julia Cook which taught them ALICE strategies through a fun story about a school of ants who must participate in a new school drill called “The Sheep, the Shepherd, and the Wolf”. Older students were taught each of the five strategies so that they would know what to do if ever in a situation that involved a violent critical incident whether it be in a school or in the grocery store. Student response to the new safety procedures was great. Many of the older students who have been through a lockdown commented that they felt safer using the ALICE strategies.
We hold ALICE drills throughout the year just like we practice fire drills, evacuation drills, and clear the hall drills. Our first drills have been simple so that our staff and students may practice utilizing the basic strategies. They have practiced barricading their interior classroom doors and in some classes the students have helped out. Students scatter around the classroom prepared rather than sitting in a corner or at their desk waiting. The drills last only 2 ½ minutes.
We want our school to be the safest it can possibly be. It is our goal to create and maintain a positive, healthy, and safe learning environment for each of our students. We want everyone to feel safe and prepared for any emergency whether it be a fire, evacuation, or a student injury so we practice and prepare, but we do not anticipate.