Students discuss last year’s ALICE event

Pasadena Independent School District

Pasadena Independent School District

On April 12, 2022, Newton High School implemented ALICE protocol for the first time after it was falsely reported that a student with an orange and white weapon was inside the school near the library. Earlier that morning, law enforcement was notified of a student with a gun in the parking lot and implemented basic lock-in protocols. After the student was reported to be inside the building, the school was then put into a full ALICE lockdown. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. Classroom teachers were then faced with the choice of implementing the safest option for their students.
Once the police were notified of the threat they came to the school. There were around 15 police officers at the exits of the school so no one could get in or out according to NHS principal Blake Smith.


Student who evacuated:
When the lockdown was called, some classrooms were faced with the fact that evacuating would be the best option based on their location. Many teachers with classrooms in the language hall, in particular, decided to take their classes and evacuate the building.
Newton High School Spanish teacher Chandler Ochoa was teaching a Spanish III class during the lockdown. Although the class did not evacuate immediately, Ochoa eventually decided it was the best option based on both the location of the class and hearing of other classes leaving around them.
“I think that once we heard that other classes around us were leaving, we just decided to move everything and start running,” junior Nesbeth Ramirez-Bencomo said. “There was someone with crutches in my class at the time, so there were some people waiting on them and walking with them while others were sprinting across the grass. So, the teacher made the call [to evacuate].”
Although everything was a bit hectic at first, the class ended up going to Brian and Erica Rickard’s garage, both of whom are teachers at NHS. The students ended up staying in the garage for about 45 minutes before many of them were transported to a different location by school-sent buses.
“I was so scared. Everyone was wondering if they should take their backpacks because they thought that something bad was going to happen. We were initially running without knowing what was going on to Rickard’s garage,” Ramirez-Bencomo said. “We were there for like 45 minutes. Some of us left on a bus and others didn’t. There were three buses in total. Then we ended up going to the Taco Bell parking lot, which is where the buses took us.”

Student who barricaded:
For multiple teachers, going for the lockdown and barricading method seemed to be the most logical option. Many classrooms aren’t very close to a lot of escape routes, such as exit doors or even windows. Frau Bergen’s German II class was one of the numerous classrooms that decided to stay on lockdown in the school.
Although instructed not to, many students found it important to make sure to let their parents and family know about the situation, so they didn’t receive any false information about their student’s well-being. For junior Ian Baker, his response to this situation was to listen to his teacher, Bergen, and just let his parents know he was okay.
“My initial reaction was to listen to my teacher and try to get as much information as possible,” Baker said. “After the ALICE was called, even though they told us not to, I got on my phone. I probably shouldn’t have, but I texted my parents just to keep them updated. I also told them that they shouldn’t come to the school.”
The classrooms that chose to stay and barricaded at the school had to stay in lockdown past their designated class period time. The lock-in was called at about 9:50 a.m., and remained in place until it was a confirmed “no-threat” from law enforcement shortly after 11 a.m. During this period, classroom environments were all different from one another.
“The classroom environment was weird because some kids wanted to evacuate, but not knowing the situation and where the intruder was, we decided to stay put. We didn’t necessarily barricade [a lot], but we didn’t leave either,” Baker said.

Administration perspective:
All staff at NHS is required to participate in ALICE Training. Smith said with all the training they have gone through, it helped administration know what to do in the situation. Everyone in the front office has their own roles in order to keep everyone safe. Smith is the Safety Coordinator, so while everyone else was locked in their office, Smith was with the Police Chief to help oversee the building.
“Each of us has a role and so what we do is coordinate with the police department and emergency management on what our roles are,” Smith said. “We have a staff reminder app and so one person is in charge of sending out information to the staff. [For example] Mr. Becker, he is in charge of looking at the cameras to figure out where the problem is. So everyone has a different role.”
As much as the teachers prepare for these events it will still raise anxiety. Smith said it was hard to believe that it was actually happening at NHS.
“We care so much about everyone here and I know we are the administration and we discipline and all that kind of stuff, but at the end of the day, and I am not just saying this, but everyone here truly is our family and we would do anything to keep them safe,” Smith said. “And the thought of someone getting harmed here at school really does have a huge impact on us.”
Since the lockdown there have been some minor changes to the protocol NHS follows. Smith says that administration has coordinated more than they have in the past with Newton Police, Emergency Management and the Sheriff’s Department. Over the summer, administration met with them to revamp who has what role and different evacuation routes.
“I know going through those ALICE drills can bring up anxiety and a lot of feelings for a lot of people but they’re really important. We never want it to happen but we have to be prepared for that possibility,” Smith said.