Safe and secure

The Grosse Pointe Academy faculty and staff receive extensive training and certification in school safety.

A comprehensive training session on ALICE, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate, was conducted for all Grosse Pointe Academy personnel.

With what seems like an epidemic of campus shootings and school violence publicized nearly every day in the national media, school administrators in both public and private institutions of learning have been taking steps at the outset of the latest school year to help prevent similar attacks on their own campuses. These steps include beefing up physical security on school grounds, adding security personnel in some cases, and training teachers and administrators.

Count The Grosse Pointe Academy as one of the schools locally that has undertaken some real concrete steps to improve what was already a robust student and campus safety program.

According to Rosemary Barker, B.S.N, R.N., who is GPA’s full-time registered nurse, three members of the Academy staff received training recently in an instructor certification course in active shooter response training. Called ALICE, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate, the program is much more extensive than training given previously in most schools.

Officer Tim Harris of the Grosse Pointe Farms Public Safety Department was on hand to answer questions from faculty and staff on school safety and ALICE ahead of school opening in September.

“Schools today need to be prepared for anything,” Barker said. “It is a dangerous belief to think that this can’t happen in your school, church or business. We see more and more of this in the news all the time. It’s a life skill that everyone needs to know.”

Barker said she and Jennifer Kendall, GPA’s assistant head of school for early and lower school education and director of curriculum, and Didi DeBoer, who is assistant head of school for grades 4-8, earned official certification from the ALICE Training Institute, a Medina, Ohio-based organization focused on school and institutional safety.

Barker said that all Academy personnel also received training in ALICE ahead of this most recent school year, making GPA one of only two schools in the Grosse Pointes at the time to receive such training.

“Jen, Didi, and I were certified as ALICE trainers and then we ran the school training for everyone else on campus,” said Barker, who has been GPA’s nurse since 2010. “We went to an extensive instructor-certification training course in June and then completed an online training segment with a test that required a perfect score to complete instructor certification.”

Going forward, she said the three of them will be required to complete a refresher every year to maintain their instructor status.

As part of the staff training in ALICE conducted by the Academy, Officer Tim Harris of the Grosse Pointe Farms Public Safety Department was on hand to answer questions from faculty and staff.

“I had Officer Harris run one of the training demos for our staff and he served as the shooter in our live scenarios,” Barker said. “Officer Harris is also a trained ALICE instructor.”

All Academy personnel received training in ALICE ahead of this most recent school year, making GPA at the time one of only two schools in the Grosse Pointes to receive such training.

Before they participated in the one-day, hands-on training program, Barker said the faculty had to complete the ALICE Basic Certification Training for Schools online course, which also included a test. She said all on campus have been certified as a result.

Now, the school is in the process of receiving organizational certification, which is nearly complete, according to Barker.

“We have two more steps that we need to complete and we will be done,” she said. “One is to record our lockdown drills and submit them. We are scheduled to have three lockdown drills this school year and we also plan to run a full-scale lockdown drill/evacuation simulation. The other step was to submit our emergency operating procedure (EOP).”

Head of School Tommy Adams said Barker has worked nearly exclusively on a comprehensive plan to help mitigate risk and ensure the daily safety and security of Academy students. “And we will continue to revise this plan and keep up to date with training for our staff throughout the year,” he said.

For Barker, she wants to keep reinforcing the fact that everyone on campus must be totally aware of their surroundings all of the time. And, she emphasized, “please tell others what you have learned!

“It really could save a life,” she said. “At the end of our course at GPA, I even told the staff that their homework was to go home and share this information with their families.”

She noted how well the school teachers responded to the training.

“Now we know there are things we can do to significantly increase our student and campus safety as well as to enhance our chances of survival in case the inconceivable occurs,” she said. “It’s scary to even have to think about such things, but we do, and this comprehensive training program we undertook will really help ensure our campus stays as safe as possible.”