Teachers, students in one Alabama city told to fight back if facing violent intruder

Police have a new method for dealing with armed attackers who get inside school buildings in Tuscaloosa: They're teaching educators and students to fight back.

School systems typically tell workers and students to lock every possible door and hide if an intruder enters a classroom building. But Tuscaloosa schools have started a program with city police in which employees and students are being trained to fight back if necessary.

The Tuscaloosa News reported Sunday the training centers on running, throwing things at intruders and restraining them.

Raquel Payne-Giles, principal at Paul W. Bryant High School, said the school's faculty and staff started their training this summer. She said she was surprised that the training taught them to attack an intruder.

"They did a skit where a person walked in with a toy gun and what actually happens if everyone throws things at him," she said. "The person began to protect themselves, and it threw him off for a few minutes. That's time to run."

Police Lt. A.B. Green, who is overseeing the training, said hiding from intruders is sometimes not enough.

"We can train teachers and students to a certain degree. At a certain level, though, we have to train the students to use their last resource, which is to defend themselves," he said. "We want to remind them that they can also fight for themselves using whatever they can use. It's more like, if all else has been exhausted, you fight for your life."

The city school system's current lockdown procedure has city school employees locking doors and hiding from intruders who come into a school. Now, employees are being told to flee from the intruder, and if necessary, fight. Students will soon receive the same training.

"What the training really encourages is more than simply stopping and hiding," said Green. "That's really what we've been teaching nationwide is everybody stopping, locking the doors and hiding where you are. Those concepts work, but they're not an absolute."

The program is called ALICE, which stands for Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate training.

So far, only the faculty and staff at Bryant High and University Place Middle School have started the training, but an orientation class on the new procedures has been held for all administrators in the system, Green said.

Payne-Giles said it will take bravery to fight an armed intruder, and she believes it will take a lot of training to turn people's natural instincts to flee or freeze into an instinct to fight.

Running and throwing things at an intruder are the main lessons Payne-Giles said the training taught her, but she also learned what to do if an intruder gets into physical combat with her or anyone else at the school.

"If they get too close, they teach us how to restrain them," she said. "One smaller woman can't restrain a large man, but what about three or four of them? That's why the training is not about doing it by yourself. It's about attacking en masse."

An armed man entered a private school in Tuscaloosa in 1988 and took more than 110 teachers and students hostage before giving up. No one was injured.