All teachers in the Vilonia School District gathered together Monday for their first staff meeting at Friendship Baptist Church.
The day was dedicated to going through school security training with Nick Brown, owner and trainer at BTAC LLC, a tactical training company tailored to training civilians for chaos-type situations like the event of active shooters, robbery, burglary and physical use of force, according to the organization’s website.
He is former military and has been a law enforcement officer for 12 years; all BTAC employees are also current law enforcement officers.
During the day, Brown spoke with employees, giving them practical advice, tools to use in varying situations and medical dos and don'ts in case something did happen.
Following that, Brown and his colleagues guided the groups through each school, pointing out flaws, what hiding places might work and what day-to-day tools could be used to protect children and themselves in dire circumstances.
Superintendent David Stephens said the idea to host this detailed of a meeting came to him last year after a principal in the district came across Brown’s information and suggested the training.
Stephens said he’d been wanting to do something like this but getting everyone together would be the trick, hence why they had to wait until the new school year to do it during the first staff meeting.
“We just needed to make sure everybody was on the same page,” he said, referring to the need for all employees to know the proper procedures.
Stephens said the whole point of training as educators is that if a threatening situation arises, they would be able to act. He said it’s one thing to know what the procedure book says to do, but it’s another to have tools and knowledge to actually do something.
He said the staff wants to be prepared and wants to help but often times, feel unequipped.
Stephens said educators aren’t trained for this, they’re trained to teach, but in today’s culture, that’s not enough.
“They have to be trained to protect,” he said.
In his training, Brown mentioned the average response time of law enforcement officers and other emergency personnel is three minutes and how all anyone has to train for is buying time and doing their part during that three minutes to make sure trained personnel can do their job after.
“That’s just kind of what we’re focusing on,” Stephens said.
Brown said that through studies done by a Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, who studied tactics and the brain, it was revealed that the brain is like a Rolodex and when something chaotic happens, our brains try to locate something back there to use.
“The problem is sometimes there’s nothing there … nothing to pull from,” Brown said.
So we do nothing, he said; we freeze up and don’t know how to respond.
Brown said what he’s trying to create for people through similar civilian trainings, is a file the brain can store and pull out when it needs to.
He said a study done by the Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed that active shooter incidents were on the rise, something as a nation we already knew, and that it’s not just schools but more than 40 percent occur in businesses.
While it’s not an educators job to be looking over their shoulder all the time, Brown said it’s important to look around and know what’s going on around you.
“All I’m asking you to do is just pay attention,” he said.
While the district does have a specific plan for events like active shooters and more, he said, he wanted to be able to offer teachers more.
“[The talk] was very specific and the teachers were asking questions,” Stephens said.
In addition, he said, he also has a notebook full of recommendations from Brown after he went through each school pertaining to ways to better address school safety and will be working with Brown on that to make some of those suggestions a reality.
Overall, Stephens said, he is very happy with the way the day went. The superintendent sent out a survey — 157 employees out of nearly 270 responded — to employees to get their feedback as well.
In the survey, he said, three statements were made with four options: strongly agree, agree, disagree and strongly disagree.
The first statement was, “The main morning session by Nick Brown was very beneficial.”
Results from the survey revealed that 73.9 percent said they strongly agreed, 25.5 percent agreed and .6 percent disagreed.
The second statement was, “The building breakout sessions were very beneficial,” of which 57.8 percent strongly agreed, 40.3 percent agreed, 1.3 percent disagreed and .6 percent strongly disagreed.
In the third survey statement, “I feel better equipped to deal with an active shooter or other threatening event,” 61.1 percent strongly agreed, 37.6 percent agreed. The remaining 1.3 percent either disagreed or strongly disagreed.
The survey also gave room for comments as well.
“Trooper Brown was a professional and very informative,” one person said. “It is obvious that he is passionate about the safety of students.”
Others said they were thankful and appreciative for the training.
Knowing that the day was so positive for district employees, Stephens said, makes him feel great about bringing in Brown.
He said he’s very happy with the service Brown provided and recommends him to any school district and added that now, they plan to use him as a consultant for Vilonia Public Schools.
Brown said to ensure a minimal amount of casualties in the event of a situation, it’s imperative that the level of physical and mental training be sound, structured and effective, which includes making plans and procedures as well as obtaining that continued training.
“It’s going to take some time,” he said. “We’re going to work together.”