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Police tell Moline school leaders “Lockdown is not enough”

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Students could soon take an active role in keeping themselves - and their peers - safe if an armed intruder were to enter their school.

School districts across the country and in the Quad City area are looking to implement the A.L.I.C.E. approach into their school safety plans. A.L.I.C.E. stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate, but it's the "Counter" part that makes this approach interesting and for some, controversial.

Detective Nathan Hoover, Police Liaison with John Deere Middle School in Moline, says "Lockdown" is no longer enough.

"If we keep doing the same thing over and over, it just creates almost a worse situation," says Detective Hoover.

"Counter" would give staff - and in some cases, students - the option to fight back, by throwing books or backpacks at the intruder and giving other the chance to escape.

But could something like that work in the Moline School District? Chris Lopez, Assistant Principal of John Deere Middle School and the District's Risk Management Coordinator for the last eight years, says the mindset needs to change... that while the chances are something like what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut won't happen here, it certainly can.

"When we become complacent, then that's when mistakes are made and so we have to be very careful about what we do so the more we talk to one another, the easier it is to identify what we need to work with," says Lopez.

"It's a lot of just community awareness that this stuff is real and it could happen anywhere and so what can we do to make our schools safer and what can we do in light of what happened at Sandy Hook and trying to prevent a tragedy like that," says Detective Hoover.

On Wednesday, February 13, 2013, Detective Hoover and Lopez spoke with parents and community members at Memorial Christian Church in Moline about ways to keep kids safe at school, including the A.L.I.C.E. approach.

"The beauty of ALICE is it really isn't making any major changes about what people are doing in their safety plans, it's enhancing them," says Lopez.

Lopez says the "Counter" method would truly be a last resort, not implemented to scare, but prepare.

Many parents News 8 talked to on Wednesday agree - that when it comes to fight or flight, students need to have a choice these days, rather than be forced to follow a rule like "Lockdown" in the old days.

"If she felt that she could help the situation and help other students then I think it's totally appropriate that she be trained to do so," says Kim Dorsey, who has a 14-year-old daughter.

"There are some kids that maybe don't feel comfortable and they'd rather just use 'flight,' but if they are wanting to fight and to stick up for themselves and for their peers, I think that they should be able to do that," says Kelle Tappendorf, who has a two-year-old.

Lopez says they are still discussing whether they will train students or not, but they plan to start training staff soon.

Leaders with the Bettendorf, Davenport, and Rock Island-Milan School Districts are also looking at implementing the A.L.I.C.E. approach into their school safety plans.