KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Parents want answers from Kalamazoo Public Schools about a controversial school safety training program that’s been suspended.
The training is called ALICE — an acronym for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate.
The district sent home a letter on Sept. 18 informing parents about the program, but many parents say they did not have enough time to learn about ALICE or opt out.
Ian Harper has four girls who attend Kalamazoo Public Schools, including a 7-year-old who went through the training before he could opt out.
“By the time I talked to the principal, they had done it earlier that day,” Harper said.
He was surprised when he learned what the training involves. Harper believes the district should consider other emergency training methods.
“In no sense would it ever be age-appropriate to teach a classroom full of kindergartners, first grade, second graders, to confront someone with a gun,” Harper said. “They taught them to throw things at them, to run around the room because they’re a harder target to hit if they’re moving.”
At its meeting last month, the school board agreed to suspend the training “until a parent meeting could be scheduled to provide additional information,” according to an Oct. 11 letter sent home to parents.
Many parents voiced concerns, saying the methods are too extreme. Kathi Valeii has two sons in high school who went through ALICE training. She was surprised to hear how one of her sons described the intensity of the exercises.
“He said, ‘Mom, I didn’t understand how anyone could be injured during an ALICE training, but during ours I watched a table fall on two people,’ so he could then see how this could sort of escalate and people could get hurt,” she recounted.
Parents News 8 talked said more information should have been provided earlier in the process. While the Sept. 18 letter stated students “will be educated to actively engage in an age-appropriate manner to stay safe,” it did not specify what the training entails for each grade, or exact dates when training would take place.
The district has scheduled a parent meeting regarding the program for 6 p.m. on Oct. 23 at the Lincoln International Studies School. Officials with Kalamazoo Public Schools and the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety are expected to fill in informational gaps about the program and take parent questions.
Kalamazoo Public Schools declined News 8’s request for an on-camera interview, but issued the following statement:
“Kalamazoo Public Schools appreciates the opinions some parents have expressed regarding our recently updated lockdown training. We respect their opinions, which is why the district organized a meeting at which school district and law enforcement representatives will share more information about the newly implemented ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training.
“KPS welcomes parents to learn more about this program, which has been used by schools, universities, hospitals and numerous other institutions across the country. The district takes seriously its charge to keep staff and students safe and secure, which is why the district not only conducts state-mandated lockdown drills, but has banned weapons on district property, has been working to create secure entrances at our schools, and has instituted new safety protocols at large gatherings.”