A small but vocal group of parents also plans to attend the meeting. Some said they would come with questions and concerns about the district’s plans to expand the ALICE training in the next couple of weeks, providing it for students in elementary through high school grade levels.
Suzanne Hegland, a Canton mother and an assistant dean of students at the New England Conservatory, said she is not impressed with the new protocol or with Response Options, a Texas-based company that created the training, calling its concepts and website an amateur operation. Telling youngsters to toss staplers, books, and music stands at an armed assailant is absurd, she said.
“I consider Canton to be a fairly reasonable town. I’m so shocked that we are the first in the Greater Boston area to adopt this program,” said Hegland, a Huffington Post contributor who recently blogged on the issue.
Fifteen-year-old Elle Hegland, a sophomore at Canton High School, said she thought it was a joke when her mother first told her about ALICE.
“I think it is unrealistic to think any of us would ever try to attack someone with a gun,” she said.
Susan Marshall, a Canton resident with two children in elementary school, said she also plans to ask tough questions. She said she is not convinced that the training considers childhood developmental stages.
“The program is based on the premise that children have developed these higher-level reasoning skills at a young age,” she said. “My children nearly have a meltdown when I give them five minutes or less to make a decision at McDonald’s.”
Cynthia Thomas, vice chairwoman of the Canton School Committee, said she is reserving comment on ALICE training until after it is discussed at Thursday’s meeting. She said there has been no sign of any organized resistance from parents to the program.
“We’ve received no letter or anything of that sort. It’s not something I’ve heard people talking a lot about,” Thomas said.
Yeaton said people often mistakenly emphasize and sensationalize the protocol’s “counter” option, meant to empower victims when escape is impossible, he said. Students are taught to throw off an armed attacker using well-considered defensive strategies, he said, such as pitching objects toward the assailant. He said an influx of stimuli is well proven to decrease a shooter’s accuracy, even for law enforcement personnel. And ALICE training is sensitive to age differences and modified for delivery at the appropriate interval, he said.
Meg Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.