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Welcome to The Briefing Room, a spinoff from Small Town Dicks. In our first episode, twin detectives Dan and Dave talk with two public school teachers about ‘active shooter’ training in the wake of the deadly shooting at a Uvalde, Texas elementary school. Yeardley Smith is also on-hand to ask the guys why they started this podcast.

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Dan: [00:00:04] In police stations across the country, officers start their shifts in The Briefing Room.

Dave: [00:00:09] It’s a place where law enforcement can speak openly and candidly about safety, training, policy, crime trends, and more.

Dan: [00:00:17] We think it’s time to invite you in.

Dave: [00:00:19] So, pull up a chair.

Dave and Dan: [00:00:20] Welcome to The Briefing Room.

[Briefing Room theme playing]

Dave: [00:00:35] Hi, I’m Detective Dave.

Dan: [00:00:37] And I’m Detective Dan.

Dave: [00:00:39] And we have, of course, Dan’s better half, Yeardley.

Dan: [00:00:42] Welcome.

Yeardley: [00:00:43] Hello, Dav, as I like to call you.

Dave: [00:00:45] Great to have you here. So, today on The Briefing Room, we’re going to be talking about school shootings. We’re going to focus on school safety, specifically how prepared or unprepared our classrooms are for an active shooter. You’re going to hear from two teachers who work in the state of Texas, where policymakers have found themselves in the tragic shadow of the mass shooting in Uvalde that left 19 children and two adults dead.

Dan: [00:01:10] We’re asking these teachers how safe they feel, what could be done better to prepare them, what kind of training they’re getting, and what is their relationship to local law enforcement.

Yeardley: [00:01:19] But before we get into the bigger conversation, I think you two should explain what The Briefing Room Podcast is about.

Dan: [00:01:27] It was Dave’s idea. He should talk about it.


Dave: [00:01:31] Happy to. I think for us, Small Town Dicks is so focused on individual cases. They might be two or three episodes long, but in individual case, we talk to the detective who explains their investigation. Through this process, we were getting a lot of questions and we had broader subjects that we wanted to talk about that impact law enforcement and their communities, but they’re not case specific. It’s a topic. It reminded me of sitting in briefing before your shift, where the watch commander provides background on what’s happening in our city since your last shift.

[00:02:13] In this instance, it’s an opportunity for us to really talk about what cops are doing out on the street from day-to-day, why cops do what they do, and also to discuss where cops go out of bounds.

Dan: [00:02:28] I agree. I think an unintended benefit that we’ve gotten out of this podcast is having an opportunity and a platform where we can educate the public a little bit on how we do business and why we do it the way we do it. Also, like Dave pointed out, there are plenty of examples of when it goes wrong. I think this is a unique opportunity and platform to address some of those things.

Dave: [00:02:53] And hopefully we can provide the answers to our listeners.

Yeardley: [00:02:57] Do you worry that The Briefing Room might be too inside baseball, so to speak, like, only for those who are in law enforcement or really follow law enforcement? Basically, who is The Briefing Room for?

Dan: [00:03:11] The Briefing Room is for anyone who wants to understand the perspective of law enforcement. The first FTO I had, first Field Training Officer I had, his name was Dan also. Dan instilled in me that we have an opportunity to educate when we’re out on patrol, when we go to a call, when we make a traffic stop, it’s not always about enforcement.

Dave: [00:03:34] In a perfect world, the relationship between the public and the police is like we’ve talked about in prior Behind the Badge episodes. We talk about this social contract between the police and the public they serve that, if law enforcement is violating the terms of that contract, you lose public trust, you lose legitimacy. And in a perfect world, we work harmoniously. The community feels served and they feel like they’re a part of the solution, that’s the perfect world. We don’t live in a perfect world, but we can adjust. That type of system seems to be fractured. I would say that it’s obviously fractured.

Yeardley: [00:04:22] In these tumultuous times, do you think that The Briefing Room could build a bridge between communities and policing whether you’re for or against police?

Dave: [00:04:34] That’s a tall order. However, I hope that The Briefing Room lends itself to a more trustworthy relationship between the police and the public that we provide information that allows the public to understand where the police are coming from. Of course, the public has a say in how police departments move forward. We’re serving the community. We’re all on the same team, even though it doesn’t feel that way a lot of times. I’d be living in a vacuum if I thought that the entire public thought that police officers were great and all we do is help people. It’s clearly not the case. This is just an opportunity for us, our little team, to say, “This is my experience in law enforcement,” and all we can be is genuine.

Yeardley: [00:05:24] What does it mean to you, Dan and Dave, to be veteran law enforcement officers?

Dan: [00:05:31] We often talk about that it shouldn’t be a job. Police work, it should be a calling. For me, a calling is something bigger than me, and I really think that law enforcement has an opportunity to benefit something bigger than themselves.

Dave: [00:05:47] For me, I felt a calling to help people. I felt a lot of pride putting on a uniform that in a moment of chaos and uncertainty, I can show up and help people feel safer.

Dan: [00:06:02] The Briefing Room for us is about what it meant for my brother and I and people who work in the justice system, what it meant for us to do the job the way it’s supposed to be done.

[pensive music]

[00:06:25] Thurston, Columbine, Parkland, Sandy Hook, Uvalde, everyone knows what these names mean. Education Week, which tracks school shootings counted 51 last year. 51 school shootings in 2022. That was the highest number since tracking began five years earlier. 39 people were killed and 101 were injured. The worst was in Uvalde, Texas. There’s plenty to debate around the causes and solutions, from gun control to mental health. What we wanted to focus on today is training. We wanted to know what kind of training our teachers receive regarding active shooters. So, we invited two teachers who work in the Texas public school system. Neither of these teachers has been a part of an active shooting and neither are from Uvalde. but who better to talk to about best practices for school safety than the people who are unfortunately on the front lines? Our teachers.

[00:07:29] We are very grateful to have two guests. Jennifer, welcome.

Jennifer: [00:07:33] Thank you. It’s nice to be here.

Dave: [00:07:35] And we have Kenzie as well. Thank you for being here.

Kenzie: [00:07:38] Of course. Thanks for having me.

Dave: [00:07:40] So, kind of some background. You don’t have to say the specific city that you’re in, but give us an idea of your school district, what grade levels you teach, and an idea of class sizes, and anything else that’s important about your specific school. Jennifer?

Jennifer: [00:07:58] I’m in a public school district. I’ve taught in four districts in this area in my career. I’ve been a teacher for– This is my 26th year. I’ve done everything from kindergarten through 12th grade except for middle school. I’m currently in a kindergarten and first grade combination class and I have 19 students.

Dave: [00:08:18] What’s your favorite age group?

Jennifer: [00:08:20] I love kindergarten and 12th grade, the best.


Dave: [00:08:23] Really?

Yeardley: [00:08:24] That’s so funny.

Dan: [00:08:24] Nothing in between.

Yeardley: [00:08:26] Nothing in between. [laughs]

Jennifer: [00:08:26] I like them all in between, except for middle school, but my favorites are kinder and the ready to graduates.

Dave: [00:08:33] Is there a reason why?

Jennifer: [00:08:36] They’re both still really interested in learning. It’s high stakes for the seniors and it’s still fun for the kinders.

Dave: [00:08:42] You said 19 students in your class currently?

Jennifer: [00:08:46] Currently, yes.

Dave: [00:08:47] And Kenzie?

Kenzie: [00:08:49] Yeah. So, on the opposite end of the spectrum, this is my second year of teaching. I am in also a public school in a different part of Texas than Jennifer. My school district is fairly affluent, but my particular school is a Title 1 school. I have only ever taught first grade. I student taught first grade and then last year and this year, I’ve been in the same school and the same grade level, and I currently have 22 students.

Dave: [00:09:14] Okay. And what’s a Title 1 school?

Kenzie: [00:09:17] So,Title 1 is essentially, they look at our percent of kids who are on free and reduced lunch, so low-income families. All that means, essentially, is that we get extra funding from the government to help with those students, giving them extra opportunities, extra programs at school.

Jennifer: [00:09:36] I’m also in a Title 1 school, but in my district, we don’t get extra [chuckles] money to buy things for the kids. So, you’re lucky, Kenzie.

Kenzie: [00:09:43] Yeah, we’re very fortunate.

Dave: [00:09:45] Always comes down to budgets, right? [Kenzie chuckles] Kenzie, your age group again?

Kenzie: [00:09:51] First grade. So, six and seven.

Dave: [00:09:53] Okay.

Yeardley: [00:09:54] Kenzie, if the teachers are also given some funds to spend on their classes, what do you spend it on?

Kenzie: [00:10:02] Yeah. Last year, because it was my first year, the district gave me $150, this year, every year after teachers get $100, and like you said, a budget thing approved within our district. I’m very lucky that my school particularly gets a lot of donations of school supplies, so I didn’t have to spend most of mine on school supplies for individual students. But I spent most of mine last year on things to get my classroom set up. So, a class set of clipboards, class set of whiteboards, a lot of markers and crayons and that kind of thing. Then this year, I bought a lot of books, a lot of children’s books to fill up our library a little bit more. And then I have also bought snacks before.

Dave: [00:10:46] Jennifer, I saw you nodding while Kenzie was describing those things. Similar circumstances for you?

Jennifer: [00:10:54] Yeah, absolutely. Our school does hand out backpacks with individual school supplies at the beginning of the year for the kids. But kinder and first grade students, a box of crayons last time about, you know, 15 minutes. It takes some time-


Jennifer: [00:11:09] -to break them and lose their scissors and cut everything up. So, yeah, we spend a lot of money replacing those things as the year goes on.

Dave: [00:11:18] I can’t imagine $100 or $150 goes very far.

Jennifer: [00:11:21] No, not at all.

Kenzie: [00:11:23] No. It doesn’t. [giggles]

Dave: [00:11:24] You have to make fairly critical decisions on what you’re going to spend money on and bring into your classroom, but at the same time, having to worry about that and then having to worry about violence. My understanding is about 40 states require school districts to put on some sort of training that has to do with active shooters. I’m guessing in the state of Texas, it’s no different.

Jennifer: [00:11:51] Yes. At least for my district, we have to, I’m assuming it’s a statewide thing.

Dave: [00:11:56] Jennifer, do you remember the first-time active shooter training was even brought up as a topic?

Jennifer: [00:12:02] Yeah, they don’t bring it up specifically as active shooter training. It’s one of the drills that we practice monthly. We have a monthly fire drill and then one additional. So, probably twice a year, we do an active shooter drill in class with the kids. For my district, at least, the training is 130 minutes online, Self-Paced Critical Incident Training is what they call it.

Dave: [00:12:28] Do you recall how many years ago the first critical incident or active shooter related trainings were kind of floating around in schools?

Jennifer: [00:12:37] It’s been about five years that it’s been required beginning of the year training, but it’s been around probably 10 years as far as counting it as one of the drills that we do monthly.

Dave: [00:12:50] As an educator with a wealth of experience, is there a point early on with these drills where you’re thinking to yourself, “What on Earth is happening that we’re having to have these drills in a school?”

Jennifer: [00:13:02] Definitely. If you think that I need to know how to do that, then probably before we’re doing a drill, I should have some type of a heads up or training or like what’s the objective, because it seems to me and it always has been, that the objective is just to get the kids to cooperate with the drill, so that they can check off that box.

Dave: [00:13:26] Okay. And so, the feeling I’m getting is that the training is more just to say, “We did it,” rather than it being very practical and realistic?

Jennifer: [00:13:34] Absolutely.

Dave: [00:13:35] Is that accurate for you as well, Kenzie?

Kenzie: [00:13:38] I have a completely different experience. Our district currently requires us to have our active shooter “training” every other year. So, every two years you have to have it updated. Because this is only my second year, I don’t know when that was implemented, but I did get the impression that my coworkers had done it, at least, once or twice before. So, I would assume about the same timeline that Jennifer is saying.

[00:14:00] Ours is actually where the local police department comes in and they give us the statistics of in an active shooter situation, the first five minutes is when the majority of the damage is done and really explaining that even if the police departments across the street, they can only get there so fast. So, kind of helping us to frame it as this unfortunately does, then fall onto our shoulders and being our responsibility.

And then we got split up into groups and they ran us through three different scenarios where the first one, we were told to hide. We could not fight back. We could not do anything to defend ourselves. We just had to find a hiding spot in the classroom. They came in with nerf guns and two by fours on hinges slapping together to make the gunshot noise and tried to find us and shoot us and whatever. Then the second time, they brought us back into the main area, we talked about it. How did it make us feel? Did we feel like that was the most efficient way to save ourselves, that kind of thing? The second time through, we were told to use whatever we could to block the door and to keep the shooter from coming in. So, everybody was in groups of 10 or so when we were all in different classrooms.

[00:15:15] My group, we pushed bookshelves and dust and stacked chairs. I think they gave us 30 seconds to do it. And then once they tried to get in the door, we were throwing things at them. And then we came back out and talked about it. And that time, no one got shot in my room. The first time we all got shot. The last time they did it to where it was imitating, almost a passing period. So, we were supposed to be just walking back and forth in the hallway. And then when we heard the noises, we were supposed to find a room. In that time, me and a few of my coworkers actually opened a window and got out the window. When we came back and talked about at that time, he explained to us that for so long. The advice to teachers has been stick them– I remember, we went into lockdown when I was in kindergarten, because somebody robbed a bank across the street.

[00:16:07] So, this has been going on since I was a kid. The whole premise of it was just you sit in the corner in the dark, and you lock the door, and you wait for it to be over. But as we know, if you’re all sitting together in one location, it’s going to take him five seconds to take everybody out. So, the officer explained to us that the best things that you can do, your first option should always try to be get out. You should always try to get out. I have gone into my room after that training, made sure my windows open, figured out where I would take them, how I would get them out, how to keep them calm. If you can’t do that, then you basically armed the kids with scissors and heavy things to then throw at the person should they get in your room.

Jennifer: [00:16:50] Wow.

Dave: [00:16:51] I see Jennifer is like, “Well, we didn’t get that kind of experience.”

Jennifer: [00:16:55] Nope.

Yeardley: [00:16:55] And do you wish you had, Jennifer?

Jennifer: [00:16:57] Yeah, that would be a lot more useful. It is printed as an option in the little guidebook of possible responses of which drills are going to be happening and how to respond for each one. Bit absolutely no practical application and none at my particular school. We don’t have windows that actually open. Nobody could get out a window. We’d have to break it.

Dave: [00:17:25] So, Jennifer, after the Uvalde shooting, has your school district recognized, “Hey, we’ve got some gaps in our training. We need to get on this.” Or, is there kind of this, “That only happens in other places?”

Jennifer: [00:17:39] We have made some hard changes to the exterior of the building, but not– As far as I know, there’s no changing in teacher training. We’re a large enough district that we have our own police department. So, I’m sure that the school district police officers did receive training that’s different and updated.

Dave: [00:18:01] Okay. Do each of your schools actually have a school resource officer who is on site?

Jennifer: [00:18:09] No. I don’t know anywhere that an elementary school campus has a dedicated officer. They float.

Kenzie: [00:18:17] We share ours with the middle school. That’s closest to us. All of the high schools have their own. I think some even have two. And then the way that our district is set up is each middle school is assigned one or two that then also have one or two elementary campuses that they visit as well. So, on average, I see ours maybe two times a week for an hour and that’s it.

Dave: [00:18:39] Okay.

Jennifer: [00:18:40] I see them probably twice a year, max.

Dave: [00:18:44] The differences are one district seems to– I hate to be critical, but Jennifer, I think you’re recognizing there might be some–

Jennifer: [00:18:56] Inequities? [chuckles]

Dave: [00:18:57] Maybe some neglect in how to deliver the training. Where Dan and I worked, we worked often at different schools throughout our district. We do a lot of planning, and visualizing, and scenario-based training that even when I’m driving around and I hear a call come out, as a police officer, I think, “If there was an active shooter right now at this school, where would I go and how would I get there and which way would I approach?:” Do teachers do the same things where you guys are thinking, “Right now, if I was at this spot in this hallway, way far away from my classroom, what am I going to do if I start hearing gunshots?”

Jennifer: [00:19:37] Absolutely.

Kenzie: [00:19:38] Yeah. Because I was born in 98, I’ve lived my life like that. So, anytime I go anywhere, I’m constantly– And I know it’s not just me, it’s anybody my age, we’re scanning, figuring out where’s the exit? How are we going to get out of here? What could we do if something happened? I always say that Sandy Hook was my pivotal moment, because I was in middle school and I remember sitting there and hearing the news and my mom calling me. I was at lunch. For us, it’s just never ending. We grew up with that. So, I definitely now knowing that not only am I already doing that for myself, but now I’ve got 22 six year olds that I’m responsible for keeping safe, in addition to all of the other hats that I have to wear in a day-to-day basis. It doesn’t matter where we are. I don’t even think for me, at least, it’s not a conscious thought. It’s just something that happens.

Jennifer: [00:20:32] Yeah, I would agree with that. It obviously came to me later in life, but always, especially when you’re with somebody else’s children.

[pensive music]

Dave: [00:21:01] Do your principals or the administration of these school districts, do they allow teachers to improvise their own defense of their classrooms? Can you bring in extra lumber to block a door? Can you bring in even a gun? I know that’s a hot topic, guns don’t belong in schools. But do they allow you guys to bring in things or are there school policies against bringing in your own protection?

Jennifer: [00:21:29] For my own personal school, the amount of improvisation that we do, I mean, mainly what it is, we have windows in our doors, and when we’re doing our lockdown drills, you have to cover up the window. We sew our own curtains to cover the window.

Yeardley: [00:21:44] Seriously?

Jennifer: [00:21:45] Yeah.

Dave: [00:21:46] You do what you have to do.

Jennifer: [00:21:48] Yeah, that’s what we have.

Kenzie: [00:21:50] We’re given fire hose, like chopped up fire hose, because if you put it over the top of the door, where the hinges that it won’t open. At least based on that training, I don’t know about school policy, but they have pretty much told us, “You have the autonomy of saving your class. So, do what you got to do and that’s fine.” And then anytime we do drills and stuff, we do the same as what she’s saying, where they just cover the windows, cover the doors, and that kind of thing. But we were instructed to teach our kids to use the scenario of a bear. “There’s a bear that broke loose, it got into the school. What are we going to do if that bear comes in our classroom? You’re going to throw things at it. We’re not all going to just sit here, because if we just sit in the corner together, then the bear could get to us easier.”

[00:22:37] They’ve made such a horrifying topic, kid-friendly in a way, so that you can teach those kids what to do, should that situation, God forbid, ever happen without scaring them and telling them what’s going on. But I do really appreciate that they’ve given us the autonomy of deciding, what can we do that’s best in that situation?

Dan: [00:23:02] Are there discussions that occur amongst teachers where you talk about different technology that’s out there regarding how to secure a door or– What are your thoughts on those things?

Kenzie: Yeah, I giggled when you said that, because I remember this summer, my teammates and I talking about what we were putting on our Amazon wish list for our classrooms. And we all put privacy screens for the windows on our doors and two or three of my teammates put door jams, like the ones you take to hotels that you put in the door and then shut the door on. So, yeah, we discuss it. Unfortunately, you just have to take the emotion out of it and discuss it as if this is just something I’m adding to my classroom wish list for the year, and let’s hope I don’t need it, but that way I have it.

Jennifer: [00:23:50] Yeah. Same. We do the same thing. Absolutely. We talk about it and come up with our own ideas and little things that we can improvise that we can use ourselves, for sure.

Dave: [00:24:00] And, Jennifer, is there frustration? I’m pretty shocked at the level of training that you guys haven’t received. Clearly, I’m not sliding you it’s what’s offered is what’s offered. It sounds like teachers are already having their own discussions about these matters. But to see one school district that is more up to speed than one that seems to be kind of in the Dark Ages when it comes to this training.

Jennifer: [00:24:28] Absolutely. I’m actually as shocked as you guys are hearing about the differences between Kenzie’s school district and my district.

[pensive music]

Dave: [00:24:40] I’m thinking about the day after Uvalde. Every officer that I know that’s had active shooter training, we were all scratching our heads like, “What’s going on? What’s happening?” I think the public doesn’t understand what the police are going to do when they arrive. When you have a situation like Uvalde, where you have hundreds of officers failing to act when there’s still an active shooting that’s occurring, I have a big problem with that. What kind of discussions were happening in the teachers lounges at your schools?

Jennifer: [00:25:16] Absolutely. I mean, that unfolded over a week or 10 days about what the actual response was or wasn’t. Every teacher that I know of was just jaw dropped like, “What? They were there and they didn’t do anything?” That would never have occurred to me that that would be a response. I’m in a major metropolitan area. I am not out in a rural area. I am downtown. We’re not far from police. We have plenty of available response. I would never think of that being the response or that happening.

Kenzie: [00:25:53] Well, and I think we saw a very small version of that. Wasn’t it the parkland shooting, where the SRO left and everybody was at the time, it was like, “What are you doing?” For him, at least, you could say he’s one person. So, he got scared, he didn’t have backup, whatever. But for us, when watching Uvalde, the worst part, I think, for me was watching the video footage of them standing in the hallway, just standing there and knowing that there were parents trying to get in the building, that they were arresting and putting their energy on that instead of putting their energy towards the people inside the building. And then there was the whole thing where the woman, they said the teacher was the one that left the door open, and then it came out about that.

Yeardley: [00:26:40] That that wasn’t true, that the teacher didn’t leave the door open. I remember that.

Kenzie: [00:26:44] Yeah. It was like the whole thing just felt like, “Why are we deflecting from the fact that you didn’t do your job correctly?” Once again, just like everything else, trying to put it on the teacher. That’s, I think, where a lot of our speaking for myself, but I feel like most of us feel the same way, is we already aware. We’re teachers, we are parents, in a sense, we are counselors, we are therapists, we are nurses, we are peer mediators, especially in lower elementary, we are doing everything all day long having to make upwards of thousand spur of the moment decisions every day. And now you’re going to add this on to that, also? We can’t even count on you helping us? So, I think that’s for me, at least, it was like it just almost made me feel very hopeless.

Jennifer: [00:27:36] Yeah, it’s crushing.

Kenzie: [00:27:38] Mm-hmm.

Dave: [00:27:39] Kenzie, I understand why parents– After watching cops do nothing, I understand why parents were so upset outside that scene. “Get in there and do something, you’re the ones with guns.” The shooting’s occurring and you wait for 10 minutes, then a half an hour, now you’re at 45 minutes, over an hour, and there’s no change in the police response. I 100% understand why parents would say, “You know what? I’m going to go protect my child since they won’t.” I understand that reaction, 100%.

[00:28:19] There’s an elephant in the room that we have to talk about that law enforcement is just like every other job. Law enforcement has people that have no business being police officers who are carrying guns and badges. And the fear factor, I’ve seen folks on calls freeze up that I would have never expected to freeze up and then later on, you’re like, “Oh, he froze up again.” There are cops out there that have the freeze response. There’s also cops out there that are like, “Well, my commander just ordered me not to enter that building. So, no matter what, I’m not going to be insubordinate, because then I’m going to get suspended, if I tell this chief where to stick it, because I know that’s a stupid order.” There’s guys that are afraid to do that. And I understand that dynamic as well. I’m going to tell my boss, “Screw you. I’m doing whatever I want anyway.”

Kenzie: [00:29:16] Yeah, sure.

Dave: [00:29:18] An officer is expected to follow orders. Officers can disregard an order if it’s unlawful. An officer has some discretion and can address that with the person giving them the order, but you can’t just go off and do your own thing. There has to be a reason why you are refusing an order. It’s imperative in one of these chaotic, enormous, mass shooter type situations where you have a crime scene that is hundreds of yards long and it’s in a building that’s tens of thousands of square feet, it is imperative that everyone is on the same page. This is why we follow orders.

[00:30:00] So, you have a cohesive unit that has the same goal, same objectives, and that group is working with the same set of facts and information. When we deviate from that, we have problems. However, when we’re talking about refusing orders, if command staff at that Uvalde scene told everyone in that building to stand down, those officers are in a really difficult situation. “Do I disregard the order and now I’m insubordinate? Is there a reason why that order is being given? Is there information that I don’t know?”

[00:30:34] In this case, it seemed like just simply an order for inaction, which is– It’s unacceptable, it’s unforgivable in this situation. I can speak for Dan and I, because we had experience with this was, if there’s an active shooter, we’re not going to wait for the whole cavalry to arrive. We’re going to go and address that situation as soon as we get to the campus. We might wait 5 or 10 seconds if we see another patrol car pulling up where we now have an extra set of eyes, but we are not going to delay addressing that or at least trying to contain that situation. It’s all about timeliness in your response. I guess, that’s probably for law enforcement who have trained on active shooters that we’re going hunting. It is a hunting expedition, which means actively pursuing and hunting bad guy. The lack of urgency at Uvalde is kind of a head scratcher for us.

[00:31:38] When I say it’s a head scratcher, it really just pisses me off. I don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t know what they’re doing. People can accuse me of being a Monday morning quarterback and say, “Well, you don’t know what you would do in that situation.” I’d say, “Well, I know what I wouldn’t do.” It was what I saw with command staffs in action the day of the Uvalde shooting. It was shameful.

[pensive music]

Dan: [00:32:22] You brought up the Parkland shooting, and recently, we had the honor of speaking to one of the officers who was first to respond to that shooting. It’s a guy that I’ve known for many years. I played baseball with him. And it was really interesting to get his perspective, because he was from a differing agency than the SRO who was employed at Parkland, worked for. Infamously, everyone knows the SRO at Parkland didn’t go into the building, he fled while these shots were ringing out. So, it was interesting to me to hear from my friend, George, who had many different trainings on active shooters at different schools. He knew the layout of that school, even though it wasn’t in his jurisdiction. He and his department proactively trained at that school, because they knew there was a chance that someday, maybe something would happen there.

[00:33:14] Now, you’ve got this other jurisdiction. So, their active training was voluntary, which is really surprising to me, because this is part of our job now and that’s the reality of it is active shooters are part of the American fabric. It’s really terrible to have to say that.

Yeardley: [00:33:34] Are you saying the jurisdiction that Parkland was in, that training was voluntary?

Dan: [00:33:38] It was voluntary training for that sheriff’s office?

Yeardley: [00:33:41] That’s insane.

Dan: [00:33:41] Which most people, if their job is, “Hey, on your day off, we want you to voluntarily come in,” guys aren’t going to do that.

Jennifer: [00:33:50] Teachers are quite familiar with that problem. [giggles]

Dan: [00:33:52] Absolutely. If it’s voluntary, you’re not going to show up.

Dave: [00:33:56] Here’s a question. When you have these drills, do the students and the teachers roll their eyes and just go through the motions? Are they joking? Are they running around like, “Oh, I’m getting shot at,” making fun of things? What’s the reception of these trainings in your district, Kenzie?

Kenzie: [00:34:11] Yeah, at least, again, speaking from lower elementary, the key with young kids is you have to walk that line of serious without scaring them. And we have long conversations about this at the beginning of the year. Similar to Jennifer, we do a fire drill every single month, which is mandated by the state. And then we do two-lock drown drills a year. So, one in the fall and one in the spring. And we use the lock out hold, secure those emergency systems. When we do a lockout, we still do what we did. When I was kids, where we gather them in the back of the room, we turn the lights off, we lock the door. I like to have conversations with mine while that’s going on about– We do this to practice it, because if you practice it, you don’t have to think about it if it ever was to happen.

[00:35:09] Same thing with fire drills. We do this to practice, so it is in your memory and where to go and where to find me should it ever actually happen. I try to give them real examples of, when I was in middle school, there was a kid who caught the orchestra room on fire, because he put popcorn in the microwave for too long. And so, I’ll tell them stuff like that. And then they think it’s funny, but then it’s like, “Okay, well, that happened to her, so it could happen to me.” I tell them the story of the guy that robbed the bank when I was in kindergarten. That’s the only time in my life I ever had a real lockdown, but I still remember it and this is why we do what we do. So, I would say, from what I noticed, we’re very serious when we do stuff like this and we make them take it seriously.

[00:35:54] As far as middle and high school go, it’s very hard, I think, to make high school and middle school kids take drills seriously. I also think that with this generation, especially, humor is the way that they cope. By making light of a situation and giggling and laughing at something, deep down they know that this is a possibility. A lot of them have, again, just like I did grown up seeing this and just assume that this is just how life is because it’s the only life that they know.

Jennifer: [00:36:24] Yeah, I agree. My kids are very serious. They don’t maybe understand the actual possibilities, but they know that we’re doing this for a serious reason, and that they need to behave, and they’re all very compliant for the most part. They understand and they pay attention. I do the same thing. We do it with all of our procedures at the beginning of the year, and let them know that it is serious and that we’re doing it to keep everybody safe just in case something scary did happen. We need to practice and they’re very, very respectful of it. They do know it’s a real possibility, they’ve seen it, and they know it’s kids their age and they recognize themselves in these situations. And so, they are a little bit silly during the drills, but you still get 99% compliance and they are looking to authority to call the shots in those situations.

Dave: [00:37:16] And the parents of these students, when the new school year started back in August or September, what’s the mood and the temperature with parents after Uvalde?

Jennifer: [00:37:29] That happened the last week of school for my district, and there were a lot of kids that did not come back after that. That was the end of their school year. There was a lot of discussion with parents that it was very difficult for them to send their child to school. Just a very emotional response from parents, especially of small children and being in Texas. But I would say there was much more of a response that last week of school than at the beginning of this year. It’s just kind of time passed on. Here we go. Another school year.

Kenzie: [00:38:05] Yeah, I would agree. It was the last week of school for us too. I’m up in North Texas, so I’m hours away from Uvalde, and our district, and our principal sent out an email and I don’t feel like– I at least saw that we had a bunch of students absent that last week. I had a couple of parents that did reach out to me and say, “We’ve talked with them about this at home, so if they bring it up at school, that’s why.” But for the most part, I didn’t really notice any changes with parents at school. I would say that it was the teachers that I noticed that were just more visibly shaken up and upset.

[00:38:48] Then in coming back to school during our professional development week, we went through a decent amount of training on what TEA, our Texas Education Agency, what they had handed down as far as, “In the wake of Uvalde, this is what’s changing. Your door has to be locked at all times and has to be closed.” If TEA comes in to audit us and my door is propped open because I have a kid going to the bathroom and I left it open, we would fail our audit.

[00:39:17] They definitely cracks down on all of those safety measures trying to ensure that we are more safe. I did have a coworker that said that they had a student in their class, I want to say it was third or fourth grade that had a bulletproof backpack that they came with at the beginning of the year. I know they sell those and that’s horrifying and sad, but that’s the only thing that I’ve seen as far as the parents are concerned.

Dan: [00:39:45] Kenzie is talking about TEA and that there are some guidelines that were released. Jennifer, you’ve been doing this for 26 years. I mean, that’s a long time.

Jennifer: [00:39:53] It is.

Dan: [00:39:55] These guidelines they come down, I’m sure things have changed over the years from when you started your career to now.

Jennifer: [00:40:01] I mostly see the difference in what’s expected of me personally. Like, I can’t leave my classroom door open, if I need to go take a child, a parent calls and needs the child to come to the office to go home for an appointment. I have to have a badge and a key for two kids to get through the door, so that that kid can get into the office, and then somebody else is designated to open the door when they knock, and you have to teach the kids not to open the door for adults. They can only open the door for students that they know.

[00:40:38] If we’re out on the playground and somebody needs to go to the bathroom, if you’re the only teacher out there, you can’t take. They’re not allowed. There’s no way for them to get to a bathroom, because you would have to leave your students unsupervised while you use the key to get in one door and the badge to get in the other door, and the classroom key to get into the classroom to use the restroom, and it’s a 10-minute process, and you can’t leave the kids unattended.

Yeardley: [00:41:04] So,what does that kid do who needs to go to the bathroom, just holds it?

Jennifer: [00:41:08] Yeah. Or, if they tell you it’s an emergency and there’s nobody else out there, recess is over. You just have to take them all in if they can’t wait. We try to go in groups of two teachers. I have a small school, so there’s only two teachers per grade level. So, we try to both be out there at the right time, so that there is somebody to let somebody in a classroom if we need to. Same thing if somebody falls and scrapes their knee, recess is over. We all have to go inside, so that we can get this kid, and clean him up and, get him to the nurse, which is the same process of sending somebody to the office. You have to have a badge and a key and train a team of two kids to take them over there, so that you’re not leaving your class unattended while you’re sending somebody to the nurse. It’s made it quite difficult.

Yeardley: [00:41:54] It’s really cumbersome.

Jennifer: [00:41:57] It is.

Dan: [00:41:57] Well, it’s sad to me, because I think back to me booking people into the jail when I would arrest them and a jail runs much the same way.

Jennifer: [00:42:06] Yeah, it feels like it could be a lot alike. They padlock our parking lot at 08:30 in the morning and they don’t open it until 02:45. So, we weren’t even told this. I had taken a half day for an appointment, and I went out and got in my car and I couldn’t get out of the parking lot. I didn’t realize that this is happening. They didn’t give us a key, because they don’t have the budget to make that many keys for all of the padlocks. So, just things like that.

Dave: [00:42:35] Yeah. You’re thinking about policies and practices that are able to be implemented and make sense and we’re locking cars into a parking lot where– What if there’s a big fire and people need to leave? [laughs]

Jennifer: [00:42:52] It wouldn’t be me leaving, because I don’t have a key.

Dave: [00:42:54] Right. So, you guys had mentioned earlier about teachers being relied upon to be counselors, and nurses, and mediators and you wear all these hats. And law enforcement feels that way a lot of times as well. We don’t feel like we’re asked, “Hey, X school district just came to us and said, ‘We’re thinking about updating our Active Shooter Critical Incident Policy. We’d love to have a police officer or somebody from command staff or SWAT. Come over here and give us kind of a no BS assessment on what our plan is or help us plan it ourselves.'” We’re not even brought into the conversation a lot of times. It seems like you guys have the same frustration when it comes to policies that are handed to you rather than working with you, it’s being done to you.

Jennifer: [00:43:47] For sure.

Dave: [00:43:47] You lose the granularity of detail that you get in the weeds with people who are dealing with front line issues, but you have admin staff that never deal with these things, giving you policies on how to handle things, they’re never going to experience.

Jennifer: [00:44:03] Absolutely.

[pensive music]

Yeardley: [00:44:14] You all have talked about how these trainings have evolved over the last few years. And there’s some criticism that these training scenarios can feel so realistic that they become their own traumatizing experience, even as the goal is to be prepared for the absolute worst. As Dan said, the unfortunate reality is that active shooters are part of American life now. So, my question is, how do you see this critical incident training evolving in the future? Where else do you think it can go?

Jennifer: [00:44:47] Unless they change something outside of the actual school building, policy wise or rule wise or training wise with society, I don’t know where else it can go. The trauma would come in if you actually had to experience a real-life event. I think we do a pretty good job of sheltering the children from the trauma of it and making it as matter of fact for them as we can. But I don’t think there’s any way to avoid the trauma to the faculty and staff unless something else changes.

Kenzie: [00:45:21] Yeah. An interesting conversation that I keep saying, especially after Uvalde. We’re at the point now where the young adults that are doing these horrible things grew up in a school system that had lockdown drills. So, they know exactly what the procedures are and they know exactly what to expect. He knew going in that school that they were all going to be hiding in a corner, because that’s what we’ve been taught. We were taught it when I was in kindergarten all the way up through 12th grade. So, I think that in shifting it to training where they tell you you can run, you can throw things. I was never taught as a kid to throw things. But I also, when we did lockdowns, they never really explained to us why we were doing a lockdown. It’s a safety thing.

[00:46:15] I tell my kids, “There are bad people in the world and it’s not that they’re trying to hurt you, but it’s to keep us safe from a potentially bad situation.” That usually seems to be enough for them. But I think that we’ve already made the changes that I can see us making in teaching us to arm the kids with scissors, and staplers, and books or get them out completely. To Jennifer’s point, I don’t see how we could on our level, for us at least, how we could change anymore if nothing above us is ever going to change, which it feels like it won’t.

[pensive music]

Dave: [00:46:58] That’s it for this episode. Jennifer and Kenzie will be back next Friday for Part 2 of this series. We’ll also have Detective Aaron, a former school resource officer, who will provide the law enforcement perspective. And Dan and I will share our thoughts about ways to improve awareness and training.

[00:47:16] For anyone who needs help or find themselves in crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached by texting HOME. That’s H-O-M-E to 741741. Or, you can speak directly to a trained crisis counselor by dialing 988. Thanks for listening to our first episode of The Briefing Room. And thank you to Jennifer and Kenzie for sharing your experiences and to Yeardley and Dan for the insightful questions. We’ll see you at the next briefing.

Yeardley: [00:47:46] The Briefing Room is produced by Gary Scott and me, Yeardley, Smith and coproduced by Detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Logan Heftel, Soren Begin, Christina Bracamontes, Chris Ray, Gary Scott, and me. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor and the Real Nick Smitty. Our social media is run by the one and only Monika Scott. Our researcher is Delaney Britt Brewer. Our music is composed by Logan Heftel and our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell. If you like what you hear and want to stay up to date with the podcast, please visit us on our website Thank you to SpeechDocs for providing transcripts and thank you to you, the best fans in the pod universe for listening. Honestly, nobody’s better than you.

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