Following the second-deadliest public school shooting in U.S. history, student transports from across the nation met at the Crossroads of America to sit in on sessions relating to violence and school bus security. Organizers added a last-minute session to debrief attendees on what was publicly known at the time about the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 students and two teachers on May 24.
First, Bret Brooks, the chief operating officer and senior consultant for Gray Ram Tactical, LLC, presented his originally scheduled presentation, “Know the Warning Signs of Achool Bus Security Issues and How to the Stop the Violence,” on June 4, noting that violence is not going away. He said that even amid COVID-19, an increase in violence and violent-related issues is being seen nationwide.
Brooks, who is an active law enforcement officer as well as the training coordinator and policy advisor with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, noted that the increase in violence can be attributed to many different factors. Some of those factors could include the severe drive shortage, which is causing less qualified individuals to be hired, or the rise in fuel prices, which might result in cutting into or diverting training budgets.
Using an analogy of buying chicken at the store rather than killing it ourselves to eat, he said nowadays much of society has lost the emotional connection with the productive use of weapons, whether those are guns or not. Other contributing factors include an increase in violent movies, television shows and video games, and a decrease in criminal prosecution.
He added that an increase in violence and the types of violent acts as what played out in Uvalde, Texas, is not limited to the U.S. However, he commented that U.S. media reports more frequently on these incidents and not others that commonly occur internationally.
He noted that on the same day as the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting, Dec. 14, 2012, when 20 students and six staff members were killed by an active shooter, across the world in China 23 children and an elderly woman were stabbed. All of the victims survived, though some were seriously injured with fingers or ears cut off. That same week, a person entered a community college in Wyoming and shot his father with a bow and arrow as he was teaching.
Why Training is Important?
Brooks explained that humans only use about 10 percent of their brain, which is the conscious mind. The unconscious mind is the other 90 percent, which serves as the warehouse of one’s life experiences. When engaging in training exercises, the mind stores information on how to act in certain scenarios.
He noted that school bus drivers and administrators generally need to be able to recognize the warning signs: Verbal, nonverbal (breathing heavily, tense, both hands making fists), and concealed weapon identification. The first step, he said, is to accept that a violent situation can happen to anyone.
“If you are in denial, you will hesitate and your response will be delayed,” he said.
Body language, Brooks explained, consists of over 700,000 signals, 250,000 facial expressions and 5,000 hand signals. Background training on what body language can mean is going to help educators in the future, as violent people show their emotions, he said.
He added that school bus driver training should consist of active shooter and intruder response training as well as hijacking.
Additionally, he noted, all school buses and classrooms should be equipped with chest seals, hemostatic gauze and tourniquets. But he added there also needs to be training on how to use each one.
“We must be able to know how to save lives after these [violent] events,” he said. “We have to accept that it can happen to us, and in our first aid kits we need to have those tools.”
Debriefing the Uvalde, Texas shooting
Following his session on school bus security, Brooks discussed the incidents leading up to and during the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 students and two teachers were fatally shot by an 18-year-old on May 24. While Brooks said he wasn’t providing any information other than what was publicly known at the time, he spoke about the incident from the perspective of a former S.W.A.T. team member.
This gave attendees the chance to ask questions, share stories, and better understand the events leading to the tragedy.
Since the session, reports have circulated that indicate the first responding officers waited more than 70 minutes to confront the shooter, and the on-scene commander did not have a radio. Brooks added that Robb Elementary School had also undergone active shooter training earlier this year, but what was taught during that training is unclear.
He noted that from May 24, through May 31, 50 mass shootings were reported in the U.S., adding that almost 20 occurred during Memorial weekend. Plus, he added that not all violent school instances are gun-related.
An attendee asked about state conceal and carry laws that might allow a school bus driver to have a weapon while on board the school bus. Brooks openly discouraged that idea. He said to effectively carry a weapon, one needs extensive training on not just how to shoot it but also weapon retention.
For example, he said that a student could potentially take a gun from a driver’s waistband or holster as they walk up the aisle.
“It’s going to cause more problems than it’s going to help,” he said, adding that the driver’s number one job is to drive the students, and ensure they get to and from home safely. “Having said that, if there comes a point in time that the driver needs to protect themselves or the kids, there are a lot of things that are around them that they can do [and use]. There are going to be things in our environment that we can use to fight back.”