Debate over active shooter training for students dominated a marathon meeting of Ketchikan’s school board Wednesday evening.
The board voted to postpone a decision on so-called ALICE training for students. That’s after three community members and some board members spoke out against the potentially traumatic impact of training.
ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. The C — counter, as in counterattack — drew the most criticism.
Tongass School of Arts and Sciences teacher Carol Stanton told the board she thought the training could traumatize younger kids.
“When we first were made aware of the student lessons, we thought, ‘This does not look developmentally appropriate for our children,’” she said.
Stanton said that because Tongass is a charter school with some measure of independence, it would not implement the ALICE curriculum — even if the board adopts it.
Board member Jordan Tabb, took issue with curriculum that instructs elementary-schoolers to fight back against an attacker.
“For those who are not familiar, I am a licensed mental health professional, and I work with children and families, particularly children who have been traumatized,” he said. “And so, I have seen in the years that I have been working in the post-Sandy Hook environment — working with traumatized children — that these types of trainings do have deleterious effects on children.”
But Ketchikan Police Lieutenant Andy Bernston said the training was essential to save lives.
“I was at a school where there was an active shooter in 2001 and there was no plan. And it was chaos. And it didn’t end well,” he said.
He said that though the training may make some kids uncomfortable, it’s something that could make a difference.
“When you’re dealing with chaos and evil, there’s no setup that’s going to fix everything, that’s going to make every situation perfect,” Bernston said. “But if we can give a couple tools that can maybe lead to some success, for us, it’s worth it.”
The board postponed its decision on the ALICE curriculum for students pending revisions. Board member Leslie Becker was the only vote opposed to the postponement.
In other business, the board voted down a proposal to form a special committee to negotiate a contract to hire interim superintendent Beth Lougee on a permanent basis. Instead, after a 10-minute closed-door session, the board voted 5-2 to allow board president Bridget Mattson to designate two members to work with the Alaska Association of School Boards on a contract for Lougee. Mattson and board member Jordan Tabb opposed the proposal, though they didn’t explain why.
Board member Leslie Becker said the final contract would come back for a vote on Feb. 12.
The board also postponed its discussion of changes to high school graduation requirements until after a Jan. 29 public work session to be held at Ketchikan High School at 5:30 p.m.
And, finally, the school board filled one vacancy and declared a new one. The board welcomed U.S. Forest Service public affairs officer Paul Robbins Jr. to the seat vacated by former board president Matt Eisenhower and board member Rachel Breithaupt submitted her resignation. She says she’s looking to reduce the amount of stress in her life as she expects a new baby.
School officials say information on how to apply to fill the vacancy is forthcoming.