Terri Wallace remained still and silent Thursday as several tennis balls pelted her in the back.
No one screamed.
No one fought back.
No one turned to look at the “intruder” who had entered the New Haven High School classroom.
But when the lights came on and the “intruder” – New Haven High School Principal Greg Mohler – was gone, all of the staff members participating in the safety training echoed the comments of Wallace, a teacher, after being struck with the balls, which represented bullets.
“I just wanted to get up and stop him.”
East Allen County Schools employees at each of the district’s 17 schools participated Thursday in voluntary training to teach them about the ALICE training program.
Wallace’s response to the intruder scenario is why the ALICE safety training method is so important, said Keith Edmonds, assistant principal of New Haven High School.
“If you’re a parent, wouldn’t you feel a whole lot better knowing that your child fought for their life instead?” Edmonds asked the teachers and other East Allen employees who participated in Thursday’s three-hour training session.
“Yes,” they responded.
The safety program is available through the ALICE Training Institute in Medina, Ohio. The program provides tools and strategies on how individuals can respond to potentially dangerous situations.
ALICE is an acronym that represents an alternative in responding to a crisis through five concepts: alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate.
“All of the training up to this point has been to be submissive,” said C.C. Fullove, dean of students at New Haven High School.
“What we’re doing is empowering (staff) to make a decision about how to save lives.”
Just as the first scenario of the day was an example of how not to respond, the several others that followed were designed to show East Allen staff members how to react following ALICE protocol, Fullove said.
In one room, staff members were instructed to distract and fight back against the intruder using any means necessary.
Minutes later, brief chaos broke out as Fullove acted the part of an intruder, using a tiny toy gun with plastic bullets to “shoot” at staff members as they tried to stop him.
The first group tried to distract him but failed to stop him from firing off the entire round. Fullove said that while the group did a good job of pulling his attention away, no one took the initiative to tackle him in an attempt to stop him.
“If you hesitate, that’s it. You’re gone,” Fullove said.
The next group took a different approach, distracting him by tossing trash cans, tennis balls, books and whatever else was nearby and then swarming him.
“That’s what I’m talking about!” Fullove shouted, praising the staff members for their decision-making.
Other scenarios Thursday taught staff members to consider the option of escape if an intruder was in a different part of the building and how to respond if an intruder entered an open area of the building and started firing.
New Haven High School math teacher Deb Medsker led a group of staff members out the door, motioning them to run while she watched for the intruder.
“I think everybody is responding really well to the training,” Medsker said. “Taking action is better than no action.”