I had just walked into the classroom with my three year old and baby when our teacher dropped the news: “They moved the ALICE drill to today, during our play group.”

My heart dropped.

I had no idea what to expect from the drill as my only experience was the second-hand account from my oldest kid who did the drills in preschool the year before.

For a moment I had that feeling that I always get when I think about what school shootings and these drills. The terrifying realization that this is my kids’ normal. That ache that their tiny innocent selves shouldn’t have to practice what to do if someone invades their safe space.

Yet reality makes it necessary.

For the uninitiated, ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. The ALICE training and drills deal with what to do in active shooter situation, in this case in an elementary school situation. The drill goes by lots of names – my kindergartener told me in his class room they call it a Code Red Drill.

As a mom, you may not ever have the opportunity to go through this drill. Going through it myself really left an impact – here are a few things I learned and took away.

The plan

I was in a room full of 0-3 year olds – my own baby wrapped up in my Moby Wrap, holding the hand of my three year old – while our playgroup teacher explains what the plan for our room is.

First step, lock the doors and turn off the lights, barricade the door and huddle quietly in the corner nearest the bathroom (away from doors and windows). The other moms in the room exchanged looks and swapped some stories. Being there made it real. 

The drill begins

Finally, the principal comes over the loud speaker and announces the lock down.

My 3 year old gets wide eyed and whispers to me, repeating the words he just heard: “Mom, why is there an intruder in the school?” I wonder if he even knows what that means, but for now, I just whisper that we’re just doing a practice and that there’s no one really there, but we have to be quiet.

Minutes pass, and another announcement comes over the loudspeaker telling us that the “intruder” has moved to another part of the school, meaning that now is the time for us to run. We exit the school and join a mob of grade schoolers, running across soccer fields.

I scan the playground for my oldest, wanting nothing but to reassure him that its just a drill. I can’t find him. His classroom was in an area of the school where it made more sense for them to shelter in place. So he’s still hiding in his classroom.

All clear

When the bell rings, we are given the all clear to go back into the classroom. The principal, superintendent and two police officers are waiting to talk to us – the parents.

It was a unique experience to have parents present for the drill so they wanted to get feedback and answer any questions we might have about such a sensitive topic. A few of the takeaways:

How do I talk to my kids about this?

The answer: Be as honest as possible:

Yes, there are some bad people out there. But remind kids that this is just something we practice – just like we practice fire and tornado drills.

Where is a safe place near the school?

Talking to your child about where they will go to be safe can also be important. In our case, we live across the street from school so home is the most safe. 

What are the new strategies?

The police officer also mentioned that the newest thinking towards thwarting active shooters involves throwing things at the attacker to throw them off guard.

This point must have been reinforced because after school, my kindergartener declared that his plan was to throw his shoes and toys at any bad guys if they came into his classroom.

Be reassured – there is a plan.

Having this discussion with those in charge reassured me that there is a plan for a situation like this. D

  • Does it depress me that there’s a necessity for this plan? Absolutely.
  • Does it reassure me that the different contingencies have been accounted for and addressed? Yes.

The school administrators recommended talking to your child’s teacher about their classroom’s plan as every room/grade level will have something slightly different.

Finally they recommended this video as a way to explain the basics of the training that teachers and law enforcement go through for these situations (this was made by Jr High students)

Be thankful for our teachers, administrators and law enforcement officers.

I truly wish there was a way for all parents to witness the drills that our students have to go through.

It made a great launching point for discussion with my school-aged kid and a way to calm some of the anxiety that these drills can cause.

The drill also made me want to hug my kids teacher and thank her once again for all that she has to do and think about in a teaching day, keeping our kids safe as well as helping them learn.

Do you have any questions about ALICE drills? Leave them below.

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  1. Annie May 4, 2018 at 10:52 am #

    Thank you Stephanie for writing this and sharing from the parent’s perspective. It is such a sensitive topic and one you hope never comes true. As a parent and educator within the school it is one of my greatest fears, but do know we are ready to do what it takes to protect your children and keep them safe.

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