ALERRT is a virtual active shooter response course that has trained hundreds of thousands of law enforcement personnel and civilians in Texas and across the country, according to its website.
Even as the program has been in place for decades, ALERRT Executive Director Pete Blair said the new directive pushes the program to have a greater focus on school resource officers, where there was not before. This means all summer, where training space is available, ALERRT will dedicate itself to filling those spots with SROs, as well as developing new classes specifically for SROs should any new funding become available, he said.
The push for increased training comes nearly two weeks after an 18-year-old gunman killed 21 people in an elementary school in Uvalde last month.
It was later discovered that as many as 19 officers stood outside the classroom where the gunman barricaded himself for more than an hour while children remained alive inside.
Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety Steven McCraw previously said the decision for officers to stand down while awaiting keys to the classroom from a janitor was “the wrong decision.” This revaluation and others have placed greater scrutiny on law enforcement reaction and responsibilities.
“We sadly recognize we cannot do anything to bring back the precious lives that were taken; however, we must do everything in our power to prevent the same tragic ending from happening again,” Abbott said in the letter. “An important part of these prevention efforts must focus on the proper training of law enforcement and school administrators on how to respond when they face the threat of an active shooter on their campus.”
The program includes 16 hours of training in team movement, room-entry techniques, approach and breaching, shooting and moving, the letter said. The program was developed using evidence-based criminal justice research that evaluates and enhances the overall understanding of active shooter events and assists in improving law enforcement best practices, its website said.
Abbott’s office also called on ALERRT to provide an after-action debrief of the Uvalde school shooting and other relevant situations to school administrators, law enforcement personnel, and other decision makers charged with school safety, as a “solemn reminder of the necessity for constant vigilance in every school hallway and classroom and the need for the active shooter training.”
“The vital training has been shown to shorten response times and strengthen law enforcement abilities,” Abbott said. “Training will prioritize equipping school-based law enforcement with the necessary skills and knowledge to quickly and effectively respond to active shooting events in Texas public schools.”
Abbott’s office did not immediately provide details on training timelines or funding plans, but Blair said ALERRT will need additional funding — on top of the $2 million state money earmarked for the program each year — if state leaders want more training programs to be available. He added that his office is currently working on developing funding estimates.
Abbott continues to call on state agencies and legislators to look into ways to make school campuses safer, particularly from gun violence. Last week, he called for special legislative committees to be formed; directed the Texas Education Agency to look into making schools safer; and told the Texas School Safety Center to conduct comprehensive school safety reviews on Texas campuses.
However, he has stopped short of calling a special session to address the issue of gun violence himself, bringing backlash from adversaries and gun-enthusiasts alike.
“Abbott’s call for committees is just a coward’s passive, half-baked response to the devastating gun violence Texans have been experiencing,” nonprofit Progress Texas said in a statement. “We need immediate solutions, not this.”
School and teacher advocacy associations have also said the governor’s actions are not enough, with the Texas State Teachers Association saying in a statement that these moves prove the “governor and legislators refuse to address the real use and enact reasonable gun laws to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”
On Monday, more than 250 self-declared gun enthusiasts bought an ad in the Dallas Morning News stating support for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s push for gun reform, including favoring so-called red flag laws, expanding background checks, and raising the age to purchase a gun to 21. Red Flag laws allow a family member, a school official and others to use judicial means to remove a gun from someone who’s demonstrated that they’re a threat to themselves or others.
“Most law enforcement experts believe these measures would make a difference. And recent polls of fellow conservatives suggest that there is strong support for such gun-safety measures,” the ad read, saying it was supported by “Republican voters from Texas and beyond, gun enthusiasts, conservatives willing to take a fresh look at the causes of gun violence, willing to try new ways and new technologies to improve gun safety and better fight the incidences of mass killings and street homicides.”