SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — As the investigation into the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde continues to unfold, one group of Texas safety experts is already eyeing ways to ramp up training and prevention methods.
The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center (ALERRT) at Texas State University provides research-based, scenario-focused active shooter response training to law enforcement, first responders and civilians.
ALERRT is in the process of creating new curriculum aimed at preparing students, and Assistant Director John Curnutt said Tuesday’s tragedy highlights the need for this kind of training, tailored to different developmental stages.
“Age-appropriate training — so that they feel empowered to do something for themselves and others at certain levels, as they get older and they develop. As they become young adults, then hopefully they will become more capable of critical thinking under these very chaotic and stressful environments,” Curnutt said.
For example, he said, the curriculum would teach younger children how to take specific directions from their teacher using key words and terminology, so “the kids understand what they need to do to, kind of, help manage the chaos.” The training for older kids would teach them how to more actively participate in helping, doing things like locking or barricading doors.
“Also, along the way, we start to stair step them into first-aid, and then the type of trauma care that we have to teach people for these type of events,” he said.
Curnutt said he recognized how difficult these conversations could be with children, but said he believes they can do more than “shielding, sheltering” kids. He said ALERRT is partnering with other groups, like the Texas School Safety Center, to build the curriculum accordingly.
“We certainly don’t want to alarm people, but I think people are alarmed right now without having the information that we have to give them,” he said.
He also noted the need for prevention programs to try and stop these kinds of crises from happening, in addition to preparation programs like this one.
“It should be done out of love and respect for another person to try to get them the help that they need, so it doesn’t manifest itself like this,” he said.
The Texas School Safety Center, also housed at Texas State University, has developed and maintained several different prevention programs. For example, it developed a threat assessment training that became required by law, after a shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas in 2018.
Starting in the 2019-2020 school year, lawmakers required every school district in Texas to have a similar threat assessment and screening process in place. At the time, KXAN report that the Texas School Safety Center would audit districts and determine which are noncompliant.
According to Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District’s Preventative Safety Measures document posted online, each campus has a threat assessment team established. KXAN has reached out to the Texas School Safety Center for more details about where the program stands statewide.
“What caused them? And how do we prevent these things? We are specialists in response and recovery,” Curnutt said of ALERRT. “But I would sure like to get better at preventing them.”
Curnutt said the curriculum being developed by ALERRT is still in the early stages of development, but he believes this tragedy may accelerate the process.
“The idea would also be that not only schools across the state, but other states could then adopt it as a model policy as well,” he said.