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School Committee wants thorough examination of new ALICE safety program before beginning implementation in Canton

CANTON — A controversial new security protocol that teaches staff and students to active­ly resist an armed intruder will be extensively reviewed by School Committee members, parents, and selectmen before students are actually trained.

“We are not ready to go ­beyond the point of training staff,” Superintendent Jeffrey Granatino said at a Canton School Committee meeting Thursday night, stressing that the school district is “under no time constraint” to implement the enhanced strategies, known as ALICE, right away.

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Schools officials had earlier quietly adopted ALICE — alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate — and trained personnel at Canton High School and Blue Hills Regional Technical School in Canton over the past few months.

Students from elementary to high school were due to begin training possibly within two to three weeks, said Canton police detective Chip Yeaton, a school resource officer responsible for the training, had said. How­ever, the framework has now changed.

“I would make the argument that we all need to be comfortable,” said committee chairman John Bonnanzio, calling for a lengthened rollout schedule. He said people, including school board members, need to know exactly how the protocol works and that it will be introduced to children in an age-
appropriate manner.

Police Chief Kenneth Berkowitz invited School Committee members and the public to a two-hour information session, which he will schedule for after the holidays, he said.

The ALICE protocol calls for making active decisions, such as barricading classroom doors, coordinating on-the-spot evacuations, and, if all else fails, throwing objects and using body weight to topple a shooter. Approximately 300 US schools, or about 1.5 million students, have adopted the plan, and advo­cates hope it catches on in Massachusetts. School officials in Concord, Franklin, and Wellesley have expressed interest in the protocol.

Berkowitz said that the traditional lockdown is a good system but needs to be improved and that it would be irresponsible to ignore that.

“Locking kids in a classroom and telling them to get down in a corner — it’s just not a natural reaction. We are hardwired for fight or flight,” he said, describing current procedures as counter-­intuitive.

He said the new protocol will make everyone safer.

“I think we need to move forward with it at an appropriate pace to implement it, with your blessing, of course,” he said to school board members.

Meg Murphy can be reached at msmegmurphy@gmail.com.
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