QCHS students receive ALICE counter training: ‘We don’t want them to be sitting ducks’

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.”

Caption: Social Studies teacher Sean Burke is held by two students as School Resource Officer Bob Lee instructs them during volunteer training at Quakertown Community High School. 

Caption: Social Studies teacher Sean Burke is held by two stu­dents as School Resource Officer Bob Lee instructs them dur­ing vol­un­teer train­ing at Quakertown Community High School.