PolitiFact: With no action on gun laws, kids are told to duck and yell

Potentially fatal guidance for children has been conveyed to parents at PTA meetings while Congress avoids acting against guns used in school shootings, U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke told voters.

At a Feb. 24 stop in Waco, the El Paso congressman said: “How (expletive) up is it that PTA meetings are now being conducted to help parents tell their kids what they are supposed to do when some guy with an AR-15 walks into their classroom – and you know what the message is today for those little third-graders and fourth-graders, and fifth-graders. … The message today is you are supposed to create as much chaos as you possibly can. They want you to scream and yell and dance around and throw books and just keep moving.”

O’Rourke went on: “And when the question is asked, how in the hell is that going to save my 7-year-old, or my 11-year-old, or my 9-year-old, they say, ‘well, it might not, but what it will do is it’ll buy some more time for the other kids in the class. It will take 10 seconds if no one does anything and they’re slaughtered like sheep. It’ll take 20 seconds if there’s movement and activity and chaos in the classroom, and yes, most kids will die, but maybe two or three are able to escape through an open door in the midst of that chaos.’”

O’Rourke, who won the Democratic nomination to face Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in November 2018, ranks among House sponsors of legislation to bar the future manufacture, sale or possession of 200-plus firearms including the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

We inquired into O’Rourke’s basis for saying parents are taught at PTA meetings to coach their kids to create chaos when a shooter walks in. Chris Evans of O’Rourke’s campaign pointed us to a Feb. 14 Facebook post by Lisa Guthrie, who describes herself as a resident of Redmond, a suburb of Seattle, Wash.

Guthrie’s post says: “At a recent PTA meeting, we brought in some of the police officers who work closely with our school district to talk about ALICE, which is their approach to handling active shooter situations.” ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate, a response to campus intruders developed by the Ohio-based ALICE Training Institute.

Guthrie’s post continues: “One part of it is that if the shooter does enter the room where kids are at, the kids are told to run around, yell loudly, throw things like books or wads of paper, etc. Just be a distraction. At first I was like, really? You think a shooter armed with a machine gun is going to confront Samantha armed with a book and just say, oh, never mind, I won’t kill her? And then it punched me in the gut: If she’s face to face with a shooter, she’s going to die regardless. The goal will be for her and her classmates to make their deaths take 20 seconds rather than 10. That’s 10 more seconds for other kids to run, 10 more seconds for first responders to get to the scene and take out the shooter. A lot of lives can be saved in 10 seconds.

“Just to be clear,” Guthrie’s post says, “this is the current state of affairs: We live in a country where kindergartners learn how to maximize the number of lives they can save as they’re being massacred.”

Shannon Parthemer, a spokeswoman for the Lake Washington School District, which serves students from Redmond, east of Seattle, confirmed that district officials have worked with law officers to train staff and students with ALICE training offered to parents “so they can better understand what ALICE is and how its principles can help increase odds of survival and minimize the loss of life in the event of an aggressive intruder.”

Schools hold ALICE drills, Parthemer said, with lessons modified based on kids’ ages.

Parthemer, though, said “these elements are not taught in the manner characterized” by O’Rourke. Asked to elaborate, Parthemer stressed that the guidance that children distracting an intruder makes up only part of the ALICE training. In elementary schools, Parthemer said, students “are told to listen to their teacher and follow what the teacher asks them to do — lockdown, counter, evacuate, etc.”

On its website, the ALICE Institute says its training sessions “increase your children’s and employees’ odds of survival during a violent intruder event. ALICE Training,” the institute says, “goes beyond lockdown methods by providing individuals with a new set of skills that will greatly increase their odds of survival during an active shooter situation.”

An institute video presents founder Greg Crane, a former police officer, saying that locking down a classroom can be viable strategy when a shooter enters a campus. “But it can’t be the only response,” Crane says. “It is completely inadequate to teach people to only be passive and static when a determined attacker has decided they are his next victims.”

Another video shows students and school employees acting out what they’d do if an armed intruder entered their high school. The narrator says that, after alerting others via the school’s intercom system, students start to evacuate. Next, a teacher is seen telling students: “Guys, you need to grab some books. If the intruder walks in, we have to throw them at him.”

In another video, a teacher says students should look around and pick up something “easy to throw,” such as a shoe, a block of wood, TV remote, paperback book, video game “or even a plastic goat.” The teacher tells students to throw the items at the intruder before running zigzag out of the school while waving hands and making strange noises.

Crane told us that 20-plus Texas districts have participated in ALICE training.

Our ruling:

O’Rourke said, “PTA meetings are now being conducted to help parents tell their kids” that if a person with an AR-15 walks into their classroom, “you are supposed to create as much chaos as you possibly can. They want you to scream and yell and dance around and throw books and just keep moving.”

O’Rourke accurately described one part of the ALICE training employed in certain school districts.

We rate this claim True.

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