Q&A with Superintendent Dr. Catherine Cost and RHS Principal Benjamin Reynolds

CONZ: What is ALICE?
Dr. COST: ALICE is something that is developed over the years and when I first heard about it about ten years ago, it was only used in a few schools, but then as more of these school shootings happened, I don’t think there are many districts that don’t use it.
It is training for staff and students and it is age appropriate, so our younger kids don’t do the same things that high school kids do, but it helps prepare students in an event of an active shooter.

CONZ: Do certain people within the school have to be certified from ALICE training and if so, why is this important and who are they?
Dr. COST: Each school has trainers who then trains other teachers about how to instruct students, and how to prepare students. What do you do as your own individual self, to keep people as safe as possible? So for example, Mr. Durant is one, and so then he works with other teachers on the Roosevelt staff to let them know how to react, what to do and how to help students.

CONZ: How long has it been since the last ALICE training within RHS?
Dr. COST: Let me break that down. Because we inform parents; we also train students; and we also train staff. Okay, so staff are trained annually. Matter of fact, this fall, staff came back and did some training. Students, with COVID, we had to pause things. So it’s been over two years, or almost two years since students have been trained. And same thing with parents.
CONZ: What kind of training do staff members receive?
Dr. COST: So for example, in the ways of old, we used to have all the students go to a corner of the room, turn out the lights. But what we’ve learned is, that’s not a good strategy. Because Sandy Hook told us that a shooter could take on a lot of children all at one time. So now, an updated strategy is spread out something you can throw. So what we do with teachers is teach them about how to prepare their classrooms, meaning doors are locked. Blinds are pulled. You know, students are sheltering, you know, spread out. So we teach teachers how to help their students. We also teach teachers what they need to do in terms of how to respond and communicate, because the key point of Alice is to let others know what is happening.
CONZ: Why has there not been training yet this year? Shouldn’t it be something that should happen within the first month of school?
Dr. COST: I’m glad you asked that, because I’ve been talking to a lot of parents about that same thing. And coming off the pandemic, we had to prioritize what we did with our teachers and the messages we gave to our students. And it’s not to say that anything isn’t important, but we couldn’t do it all at one time. So we prioritize social emotional learning first. And so when teachers came back in August, in September and November, they receive training in how to help students. Recognize how they were feeling if they’re ready to learn and what to do if there was a student who was struggling. And so we prioritize that coming off the fact that students really hadn’t been in school for a year and a half. And that’s not to say that Alice isn’t important. We had planned in January to begin that. And we’re going to look at those timelines next week. But starting in January, February, we’re going to bring parents and students and teachers on board.
CONZ: Do students get additional training when they are new to a building? What about new teachers in a building? What about absent students? Is there a virtual supplementary option for students?
Dr. COST: That’s a great point. And something we just figured out as a result of Oxford is our current sixth graders right now, we’re in fourth grade, the last time they were trained there’s a big difference between the training for elementary K five, and then middle and high school students. So we really need to fill that hole. And I think you Bri you raise a great point.
CONZ: Now can we change gears a bit. In Oxford this student was flagged by teachers and meetings happened with parents and school staff. How would a situation like this work in WPS? If a teacher flags a student, what happens?
Dr. COST: So our process would be very much [about] by making sure that student was safe to him or herself and safe around others. So if the parents weren’t compliant, we’d go down the emergency list. That’s part of the reason why we have those contacts. And we would find somebody that would follow up with that mental health provider, make sure that that student was safe to him or herself first, and then safe to return to school.
CONZ: Is there a way to isolate the kid?
Dr. COST: So yes, but the other thing that goes through my mind as an educator is, I wouldn’t want that student going home alone, I would want that student to have an adult who could follow up and make sure that he or she was okay to
CONZ: What did the WPS administration learn from the way the situation was responded to in Oxford?
Dr. COST: So when I think about the teachers who had concerns about that young man, they did the right thing, but it wasn’t enough. And I think about how they ever walk in a classroom again, and be whole, because that’s just devastating. So I know, we don’t have all the facts yet. But one thing we learned was to be vigilant and work closely with the police. No matter what level of threat there is. We were threatened by a four year old, and we involved our police department, because you can never be too sure. And I think that’s the lesson learned is you can never be too safe.
CONZ: The RHS classrooms still cannot be locked from inside the classroom. Multiple teachers have told me they have asked for this to be addressed for at least 5 years. Will this be addressed in any way now?
Dr. COST: So I think that’s a very valid question. And right now, the message Is, have your door locked from the outside so that all times you could pull it shut. But that is a huge inconvenience. You think about how many times students get called to the office, have to go to the bathroom, forget something in their locker, have to get something from a friend. It’s in and out, in and out. So I think that’s something that we’re going to be looking at these next few weeks.

CONZ: When and Why did we adopt ALICE as our active shooter training?
MR. REYNOLDS: So years ago when we would do safety training or even before I was around when schools would do safety training, the one method was to lock the room down. What we’ve learned over the years, when these school trainings that we’ve seen is that is not always the best method. So Alice has been adopted as a way to give you multiple options depending on what the scenario is, in the case of an open shooter.

CONZ: What is the ALICE button on the phone for? Should students know what this is for in case of emergency?
MR. REYNOLDS: Yeah, so the alice button. What that does is you press it and that’s how I get out at the end of the day to make the announcement. So when you hear me make an announcement, that button essentially gives you the opportunity to pick up the phone and make an announcement over the PA.
I think predominantly it’s to be used by teachers. Obviously. You always think about the worst case scenario, right? What if a teacher, so that’s something we’ll definitely look at.
CONZ: Now can we change gears a bit. In Oxford this student was flagged by teachers and meetings happened with parents and school staff. How would a situation like this work in WPS? If a teacher flags a student, what happens?
MR. REYNOLDS: Well, I want to start by saying that I’m not going to speak on behalf of what happened in Oxford because we all know that we know some details, but we weren’t there. We don’t know all those details. So one thing that I think has gone really well for us here in Wyandotte – Number one is that our students feel comfortable to come talk to us on a regular basis. We have students come and report concerns. They’re worried about a friend. They’re worried about something they know. That’s our number one way of keeping our schools safe and I think our culture here and our community, in our wonderful students. That’s number one. Number two is our relationship with the Wyandotte Police Department. I never hesitate to call them because they never think anything’s too small. We take everything seriously. We work with the police department. If there’s ever a situation where we think a student may have a weapon or something serious, they will visit the house and they will confirm those things. So I think those two big things working with our students number one, and having a great relationship with wine that police department number two is what allows us to keep Roosevelt high school safe.

CONZ: If a student sees a threat during school hours, what should they do?
MR. REYNOLDS: Report it to an adult that you feel comfortable talking to. I would really encourage students to come talk to an administrator or a counselor. If for some reason that doesn’t feel comfortable, we hope that most of our students have a teacher, a ParaPRO or a secretary, but talk to an adult here. It’s okay to talk to your parents as well. But if you can come to somebody here directly that saves us time to be able to handle that potential threat.

CONZ: If a student sees a threat after school hours, what should they do?
MR. REYNOLDS: Have their parents or themselves reach out to our staff via phone call or email, if it’s a serious threat where you are concerned for safety and you can’t get a hold of anybody in the school? Let’s say it’s after hours, I would advise calling the police department.

CONZ: Can you take me through the process? Once a student lets administrators know about a threat they saw somewhere, what happens?
MR. REYNOLDS: Well, it’s a real general question, Jake. It’s pretty broad. But the bottom line is if a student shares a threat with us, we get as many details as we can from that student. Where did they hear it? Or did they actually hear it and somebody else here? Did they see it online? Every piece of information we can get from them, and then we take on a thorough investigation and for me to say this is how we handle every time it’s not because there’s a wide variety of possibilities there
A lot of things go into it. Do we know the student? Was it something that was for you know, first-hand. Last week, we had a lot of students say, I heard this is going to happen. We traced all those back through both law enforcement and ourselves and there was no original threat made. So that’s a lot of times where people talk about a threat that didn’t actually happen. That would not be credible. But the biggest, our biggest resource is using our police department. That’s what they do for a living. They look at, you know, they keep things safe. They look at threats, so a lot of times we rely on their help to determine if a threat is credible or not.