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Uvalde residents are questioning the school districts new safety plans for the first school year since the mass shooting


Uvalde trustees are unsure whether officers who will be providing school security this year were part of the delayed response to the Robb Elementary shooting.

THE TEXAS TRIBUNE – Uvalde’s school board discussed Monday at a town hall how to resolve key security issues uncovered during the mass shooting at Robb Primary School on May 24 that left 21 people dead. But every local resident who spoke said their plans still fell short — and many had questions about whether some of the new safety measures would be tainted with the legacy of failures that contributed to Texas’ deadliest school shooting and law enforcement’s delayed response to it had.

A Texas House Committee investigation filming involved “systemic errors and egregiously poor decision-making.” almost everyone involved who was in a position of power. The House Committee’s report painted a damning portrayal of a school district that didn’t strictly adhere to its safety plan and a police response that disregarded its own active gunnery training.

Safety plans for the new school year, beginning Sept. 6 for Uvalde schools, call for 33 Texas Department of Public Safety officers to patrol campuses across the district. But trustees at the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District could not answer residents’ questions about whether any of those officers were among the 91 DPS officers who responded to Robb on May 24.

Diana Oveldo-Karau, a lifelong resident of Uvalde, told trustees some of those officers may have been among those who waited more than an hour to confront the gunman.

“And I just continue to fail to understand how the school board and administration can believe that just because you have these DPS members on site … expect us to believe our children are safe,” Oveldo-Karau said. “These are the people who let us down.”

Superintendent Hal Harrell said he would raise the matter with a DPS lieutenant on Wednesday.

More than 350 law enforcement officers from multiple local, state and federal agencies responded to the shooting but took more than an hour to confront the shooter. Law enforcement doctrine dictates that officers confront active shooters immediately.

The school board of Uvalde last week fired the school’s former police chief, Pete Arredondo, which was widely criticized for the late response. Arredondo was listed in the district’s active rifle roster as the commanding officer of such an event, but the consensus of those interviewed by the House Committee was that Arredondo did not fill that role and no one else filled for him. Arredondo’s lawyer has argued that his client should not have been assigned as commander.

But the residents of Uvalde have urged officials from other agencies to face consequences as well for what is widely seen as a disastrously fiddly reaction. The House Committee’s report said that better-resourced departments should have stepped into action to fill a gap in leadership after Arredondo failed to take command.

Also discussed Monday were plans to use $15,000 in grants to conduct Wi-Fi audits. The House Committee’s investigation also found that the district’s emergency alert system is not always effective. It works by sending alerts to teachers and faculty online, many of whom access it through a smartphone app.

On May 24, not all Robb teachers received the alert about the shooter immediately, in part because of a poor wireless internet signal that made it difficult to send out the alert and the fact that many teachers had not switched their phones on or off at the time they received it .

Harrell also said the district plans to improve door locks, add more fences and increase the number of cameras in school buildings. Several witnesses told the House Committee that Robb staffers often left doors unlocked while teachers kept doors open. This was partly due to a lack of keys. In March, the teacher in Room 111, through which investigators believe the gunman entered during the massacre, reported to school officials that his classroom door was “not always locked.”

Despite all the new security measures discussed Monday, mothers in the district like Laura Garza remain skeptical.

“I get what you’re saying about locked doors, but in high school there’s a lot of kids running down the halls,” Garza said. “These are things that need to be looked into, not just a physical change, not just gates, but the actual school system itself.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

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Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.