Retired deputy aims to stop tragedies

By Lisa Haefs | For The Compass | May 16, 2018

Antigo Catholic helps schools train for armed confrontations

ANTIGO — In a matter of moments, Dale Lenzner becomes a monster.

He prowls school hallways, armed with a handgun, seeking victims of any, and all, ages. And when he finds them hiding under a desk or in a closet — pop, pop, pop.

It’s a nightmare that he’s hoping to prevent from becoming a reality.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Dale Lenzner (Lisa Haefs | For The Compass)

“It goes against the grain of everything I have ever been taught,” said Lenzner, a soft-spoken retired deputy with the Langlade County Sheriff’s Department. “It’s hard to put myself in that mindset, but in order to make the training real, you have to be real. You can’t sugarcoat it.”

Lenzner, a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Antigo, is a volunteer for ALICE, the first training program in the country that provides school staff and students with an option-based response to an active shooter gaining entry to a school, business or organization.

ALICE, an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate, gives students a variety of choices based on the circumstances in front of them, instead of the traditional “shelter in place” advice that has long guided schools and workplaces involved in an active shooter situation.

Participants are trained to barricade doors, break windows, run as far and fast as they can from the situation and, if necessary, scream and fight back using books, balls, baseball bats ­— anything at their disposal.

“Hope never saved anyone, hiding under a desk won’t save you,” Lenzner said. “A plan will.”

A native of Antigo, Lenzner grew up in a Lutheran home, where he learned the values that guide him to this day.

“My parents taught me to help those who cannot help themselves. You see someone fall down, you help them up,” he said. “Those are godly things to do.”

Law enforcement was a natural career path.

“I really like helping people and helping out the underdog,” he said. “As far as ALICE is concerned, the children are the underdog.”

Lenzner joined the Langlade County Sheriff’s Department in 1983, when he was just 19 years old. Even though he was a Lutheran, he began wearing a necklace with a medal dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of law enforcement.

“This medal and I have been through a lot,” he said.

His life changed in 1999, when he married Kristine Flowers, a Catholic, and decided to become Catholic.

“We wanted to raise our family and practice our religion together,” he said.

They have two children, Sydney, 18, who will be a freshman at the University of Wisconsn-Madison in fall, and Jenna, 15, who is completing her freshman year at Antigo High School.

School shootings date back hundreds of years — the first in what is now the United States happened in Greencastle, Pa., in 1764. But the “modern” incarnate dates to April 20, 1999, in Littleton, Colo., when two teenagers killed 14 students and a teacher, and wounded 27 others, at Columbine High School.

Lenzner disagreed with the advice that urged lockdowns and sheltering in place rather than evacuating and fighting back. After he and his wife began raising their family, they did something about it.

When Sydney started kindergarten at All Saints Catholic School in Antigo, Lenzner was already training her what to do in the event of a breach.

“She had my permission not to listen to her teacher and to get out of that school,” he said. “She knew how to break windows and how to run.”

When Jenna started school, she received the same type of training.

“We had open conversations at home,” he said. “We told them, ‘If someone comes to school with a gun, he is there to kill you. Hiding under your desk is not going to save you.’”

He discovered ALICE in 2015, on the eve of his retirement from the sheriff’s department after 32 years. The program was just gaining ground at All Saints and subsequently in Antigo public schools and he soon became an advocate and a trainer.

“I put myself out there,” he said. “I thought, ‘This is exactly what I have been training my own daughters to do.’ I was delighted it was going to happen.”

ALICE training must move beyond schools, he said. “This has to go into the workplace,” Lenzner said. “Shootings have even happened in churches. We need to at least start a conversation about these things.”

All Saints Principal Paul Galuska said Lenzner’s involvement has made a difference at All Saints, the Antigo school district and in the community.

“He’s been nothing but supportive in helping us make our building safe,” Galuska said. “It has been a really good relationship.”

Lenzner stresses the positives in his community, coaching varsity high school basketball and assisting at Bradley Funeral Home in addition to his ALICE responsibilities. It’s all about bringing out the best in people, even when confronting the worst.

“The ultimate crime is someone coming into a school and shooting the kids,” he said. “The godly thing to do is to give them the tools to help themselves.”

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Dale Lenzner

Parish: St. John the Evangelist, Antigo

Age: 53

Favorite saint: Michael the Archangel

Words to live by: “It’s not the will to survive that matters. Everybody has that. It’s the will to prepare to survive that matters.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Related Posts

Scroll to Top