Close to 50 Quakertown Community High School students have been receiving training on how to react in the event an active shooter enters the high school.
The students signed up for ongoing lessons given by School Resource Officer Bob Lee and social studies teacher Sean Burke, a former sergeant in the Marine Corps Infantry with deployments to the Middle East and Africa.
“I didn’t expect I’d be instructing students on stuff like this, the idea of force protection in the schools,” Burke said after a recent ALICE counter training session. The district adopted ALICE training three years ago, in the summer of 2018. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.
The ALICE philosophy is to use technology and information in a way that staff and students can make informed decisions in a crisis, remove as many people as possible from the danger zone, and provide realistic training so those involved in a crisis have a better chance of surviving. Students in each grade receive some form of training.
The training takes place about every two weeks in the wrestling room, which has mats wall-to-wall. Props include tennis balls and two fake red guns — a handgun and assault rifle. The adults talk to the students about the weapons, and then allow them to hold them.
Both Lee and Burke talk to students about different strategies to protect themselves and their classmates should an armed threat enter the school. “There’s a lot of thinking outside the box,” Lee said. “We don’t want them to be sitting ducks. There’s a different game plan.”
Using himself as a prop, Burke shows students how to hold his arms and legs to take him down. They’ve also used tennis balls to show how an armed intruder — on separate occasions played by Lee and a student — can be distracted.
Recent back-to-back sessions had nine and 11 students. “With smaller groups it’s a high level of training,” Burke said. “There’s been a core group of kids interested, and it’s starting to expand out. As we give more classes, we’ll get into the escape and evade. We want them to know the best course of action for their situation.”
“We want to help students reduce their own fears and build confidence,” Lee said. “We’ll be getting into more specifics about protecting ourselves and countering the bad guy. Each week we elevate the process a little more.”