Page 71 - Security Today, January/February 2021
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to deliver training to students, decisions are often based on emotion and anecdotal evidence. Despite the vast amount of media attention this issue garners, there remains limited research empirically assess- ing the impact that active assailant protocols have on students’ well- being. As a result, we sought to add to the small, but growing, body of research on the psychological impact of these trainings among elementary through high school students.
In late 2019, researchers surveyed 350 children in fourth and fifth grade, and 908 children from sixth through 12th grade in a Midwest- ern school district. In partnership with school staff, we developed age-appropriate surveys to assess both the negative (scared/fear) and positive (preparedness, confidence) psychological impacts of the dis- trict’s active assailant response training as well other routinely prac- ticed emergency drills (fire drills, tornado drills, Stranger Danger discussions). Specifically, this district taught students the multi- option ALICE protocol through discussion-based exercises.
Published earlier this year in the peer-reviewed journal Victims & Offenders, we found nearly nine in 10 students across all grade levels surveyed did not feel more scared/fearful after the ALICE training. In fact, no more than 13% of students reported being more scared/fear- ful after the training, with students most fearful of the Lockdown option of ALICE and least fearful of the Counter option. These results are similar to the percentages of students feeling more scared/fearful after participating in tornado drills and Stranger Danger discussions.
Furthermore, more than 88% of students reported no change or increased feelings of safety after being trained in ALICE, and more than 86% of Sixth through 12th grade reported no change or an increase in feelings of preparedness and confidence after the ALICE training.
Reaction to Training
Additionally, we sought to determine what factors predicted if a stu- dent would have a positive or negative reaction to the training. A con-
sistent finding across all grade levels was that students who were scared of other emergency preparedness responses were more likely to experi- ence a negative psychological outcome after the ALICE training.
This suggests that there may be something unique to those indi- vidual students (anxiety, prior trauma) as opposed to the ALICE training. Moreover, for sixth through 12th grades, students who were trained more often in ALICE reported higher levels of confidence. Thus, our findings run counter to common media portrayals of active assailant response protocols traumatizing students.
Instead, we uncovered that for the vast majority of students, multi- option, discussion-based trainings either do not affect or result in greater feelings of safety, preparedness, and confidence without con- tributing to increased feelings of fear.
Although our research highlights the potential benefits of a discus- sion-based, multi-option active assailant protocol, schools should take the utmost care to ensure that the small percentage of students who experience distress get the support they need after an active assailant response training and other standard emergency drills.
This study, along with the prior research on the topic, can assist schools in implementing an evidence-based approach to active assailant response training that does not psychologically scar students. While our findings have important implications for school districts generally, the results have become particularly salient as schools are navigating the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussion- based exercises utilized in our study can easily be taught to students while maintaining current social distancing guidelines.
Dr. Cheryl Lero Jonson is an associate professor of criminal justice at Xavier University Ohio. Dr. Melissa M. Moon is an associate professor of criminal justice at Northern Kentucky University. Dr. Brooke Miller Gia- lopsos is the assistant professor of criminal justice at Seattle University.
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