KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Many Kansas City school districts have implemented multi-option response training for active shooter drills, as opposed to the traditional lockdown protocol.

But school security experts have mixed views on best practices, making it difficult to discern appropriate responses in an active shooter situation.

Kenneth Trump, president of the National School Safety and Security Services, said a traditional lockdown is when students, staff and faculty are told to locate a classroom or other secure area and lock the doors.

Once inside, individuals turn off the lights, move as far away from the doors and windows as possible, minimize physical exposure and seek protective cover, remain calm and quiet, and wait for an all clear from an established or credible source.

“They (lockdowns) do work,” Trump said. “A lockdown is simply getting students and staff out of harm’s way, closing and locking the door.”

Multi-option response training, however, recommends individuals self-evacuate or flee the scene, if possible; barricade in a room with environmental objects to prevent the shooter from making entry; and as a last resort, distract and actively resist the shooter by throwing objects or swarming the gunman, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of School Violence.

FOX4 contacted 14 school districts in the Kansas City area to ask about their active shooter drills and found that over half of them train students and staff to use a multi-option approach when responding to active shooter situations.

It’s something Trump said the National School Safety and Security Services is opposed to.

“They’re (school shooters) looking, in many cases, for high-number body counts, targets, and you want to take those targets away,” he said.

“So having everybody self-evacuate — hundreds, maybe thousands of kids in one school and staff — is creating a target-rich environment versus a secure lockdown in place where the shooter’s walking past or they go towards sound or where they know somebody’s there or to hit a target that’s out in the hallway.”

But Jean-Paul Guilbault, chief executive officer at Navigate360, a school and community safety program focused on preventing targeted violence, said it’s important to provide multi-option response training.

“We believe it is necessary to go beyond traditional lockdown models because every incident is situational. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution or static response that applies across the board,” Guillbault said in an email.

Traditional lockdown vs multi-option response

In response to the national attention school shootings have received, federal, state and private agencies have all begun critically evaluating these incidents and advising civilians on how to respond. An overwhelming majority recommend multi-option responses as opposed to the traditional lockdown response, according to the 2018 study.

Of the schools in Kansas City that prioritize multi-option training, many of them rely on security training companies, like ALICE Training, and Strategos International, to adequately equip staff and students on how to handle an active shooter situation.

“Safety training in schools cannot be overstated—and neither can the importance of utilizing trauma-informed practices when doing so,” Guillbault said.

ALICE Training, affiliated with Navigate360, advises people in active shooter situations to communicate clearly with one another when an intruder is present on school grounds, barricade and lock entryways, and flee the situation.

But Trump said it also recommends people who have an encounter with an active shooter to attempt to distract them by throwing objects, making noise or moving around — something he believes is unrealistic.

“So we’re gonna talk to a bunch of middle school kids, who struggle to make the decision between chicken nuggets and pizza for lunch, to strategically and tactically take down an armed intruder with a high-powered weapon, that even police officers would struggle with, with age and developmental issues?” Trump asked.

“I mean, teenagers, right? Your brain doesn’t fully develop, executive function doesn’t develop until your mid-20s. Even the most proficient in martial arts and everything, it’s not realistic.”

The 2018 study wanted to find whether a traditional lockdown or multi-option response led to a quicker resolution, thus creating a greater likelihood of survivability. It revealed that “traditional lockdown simulations ranged in time from 22 to 290 seconds, while the multi-option simulations ranged from 4 to 70 seconds.” 

Guillbault said ALICE Training’s multi-option response model is supported by research and is designed to cater to the age and capabilities of schools’ demographics.

“Safety training for a kindergartener should look much different than for a high schooler, so we need to meet students where they are and provide age-appropriate training they can understand,” Guillbault said.

The study also found that fewer individuals reported “being shot” in a multi-option response simulation, as opposed to the traditional lockdown simulation, pointing to reduced resolution time as a key factor of survivability.

“Our results indicate that one multi-option program – ALICE – is a more effective civilian response to active shooter incidents compared to the traditional lockdown response,” the study cites.

But Trump said he disagrees with Navigate360’s approach and claims there are ways a school can diversify the traditional lockdown drill without relying on situational response training that may lead to unintended consequences.

“We’re grasping for PhD solutions, and we haven’t graduated from kindergarten on doing the fundamentals,” he said.

“Do a lockdown during lunch, do one between class changes, do it during student arrival or dismissal if you want to really diversify your drills. In a fire drill, stand up as the principal and stand by an exit and tell people, ‘Pretend that you can’t go out here, that the fire is here, what would you do?’ Get people to think on their feet.”

Guillbault said ALICE’s Training model maximizes safety by teaching people how to react “based on the REAL situation and available information that is occurring in REAL time.”

But Trump said it’s risky to rely on technology and applications, such as the SchoolGuard active shooter app, to communicate with staff during an emergency because they have the potential to malfunction, delay or go unnoticed if a teacher’s phone is silenced or they are busy teaching.

He said ALICE’s training practices are over the top, may delay officer response times and, overall, have the potential to do more harm than good.

“(With ALICE) you’ve got a target-rich environment, you slow down single officer entry to where officers are having hundreds of people run out or have to worry about if the shooter’s in that group, and then all of this leads to, you know, we’re talking about throwing things to attack the gunman,” he said. “So, with all of that background, all of this leads to questions about whether or not you’re crossing that line (doing more harm than good).”

What is my school’s active shooter response?

FOX4 reached out to Kansas City schools in both Kansas and Missouri to learn what type of training they use and what entities assist in training staff. 

The vast majority of school districts in the Kansas City area stated they follow ALICE, Strategos International, or other multi-option training protocols, including:

  • Olathe Public Schools, Kansas
  • Spring Hill School District, Kansas
  • Gardner Edgerton School District, Kansas
  • Lee’s Summit School District, Missouri
  • North Kansas City School District, Missouri
  • Fort Osage School District, Missouri
  • Independence School District, Missouri
  • Blue Springs School District, Missouri

One school said it subscribes to the standard response protocol outlined by the I Love U Guys Foundation, which follows traditional lockdown protocols:

  • Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools

Three school districts said they primarily work with local law enforcement to educate staff on active shooter awareness, including:

  • Kansas City Public Schools, Missouri
  • Shawnee Mission School District, Kansas
  • Raymore-Peculiar School District, Missouri

One school said their district’s administrators and safety and security department manages its emergency drill procedures:

  • Blue Valley School District, Kansas

Another school district said the director of safety and security is out of the office and unavailable to respond to inquiries until they return:

  • Park Hill School District, Missouri

For more information on active shooter responses and best practices, visit the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security’s websites.