Uvalde’s school district had an extensive security program. 19 children, however, were killed.

School staff in Uvalde, Texas, have promised to do everything possible to protect students from mass shootings.

Uvalde’s consolidated independent school district has, according to public documents, doubled its security budget in recent years to partially comply with state legislation. 2018 school shooting as a result of which eight students and two teachers were killed. The district has adopted a number of security measures, including its own police force, threat assessment teams at each school, a threat reporting system, social media monitoring software, school fences, and a demand for teachers to close their classrooms. security plan is located in the district website.

In any case, it happened.

Somehow – the account provided by the authorities is not entirely clear – the high school graduate, who had no known criminal record, was able to avoid a district officer near Robbie Elementary School on Tuesday and enter the backyard armed with a rifle. From there, the 18-year-old gunman entered the corridor, entered the classroom, where he closed the door and opened fire, the authorities said. 19 children were killed together with two teachers. Police and federal agents arrived soon after, forcing a school official to open the door and then shooting the gunman, state and federal law enforcement officials said.

The investigation is still in its infancy; the school district has not answered questions about how the security plan was implemented. But the death toll suggests that even security programs that seem comprehensive – meet the latest research-based standards – may have gaps’s ultimately preventing the worst-case scenario, experts say.

“We can do everything we can to prevent school shootings, but we are never going to prevent them 100 percent because evil exists,” said Katie Martinez-Preter, director of the Texas School Security Center. Texas State University program to help districts develop safety plans to ensure they meet state law requirements.

“So it is possible that we have plans, training, drilling on that plan, so that if something happens in our schools, we will be ready to reduce the human toll as much as possible or reduce it to 100. percent. “

The center has made a “high level review” of the regional plans as part of the regular inspection in accordance with the state legislation adopted in 2019. The center has also completed a detailed review of Covid-19 security plans and intends to focus on active threat plans next time, Martinez-Preter said. He declined to comment on the specifics of the district security plan or the actual attack, except that the center did not find that the district’s plans were in line.

But Matthew Meyer, a professor at Rutgers University and a school violence expert, said the news that the shooter had entered through the school door was a cause for concern.

“For any school, you have to control your access points,” Mayer said. “It’s a problem, if he could literally get in the back door, it would not be controlled in any way.”

Uvalde’s security plan describes secure access systems for both schools in the district, but not specifically for Robb Elementary. The program states that Robb Elementary fences are “designed to restrict and / or restrict the entry of individuals without the need to be on campus.”

Curtis Lavarello, executive director of the School Security Council, which trains school officials on how to protect themselves from attacks, said many of the measures in Uvalde’s security plan seemed to be in line with national best practice, but did not include enough details to determine how. : well, they are implemented.

He said very few people were killed in the school shooting at the closed classroom door.

“All of these systems are as good as the school that uses them,” Lavarello said.

Lavarello says he often has to convince districts that elementary schools need the same level of security as middle and high schools. A lesson learned from a shooting at a Connecticut elementary school in Newtown in 2012 that killed 20 students and six teachers.

“Elementary schools are as vulnerable as any other school,” Lavarello said. “They have to be at the same level, in line with the rest of the school security practice.”

Image.  A family waits to lay flowers at Robbie Elementary School on May 25, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas.
A family is waiting for flowers to be laid at Robbie Elementary School on May 25 in Uvalde, Texas. Brandon Bell / Getty Images:

Authorities did not explain how the shooter appeared at the back door or the classroom door, which according to the district security plan should have been locked.

The school held an awards ceremony on Tuesday for students who had just a few days left to complete the school year, which may be one of the explanations for the open door. It is reported that the parents came and went from school all day.

Letty Ruiz, who has a granddaughter who survived the attack, said the school doors, which are usually locked, were open on Tuesday. “I think that’s why the gates were probably open, because people came in and out, parents, for prizes,” Ruiz said.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Hal Harel, the superintendent of the Uwalde Unified Independent School District, described teachers and officers as heroes trying to protect students. In addition to the two teachers killed, more than a dozen people, including children and law enforcement officers, were injured, officials said. Harel did not comment on the region’s security plan. Law enforcement did not either.

Deputy Governor Dan Patrick said the Uwalde district “did a really good job trying to protect their students.”

Patrick said the 2019 law, passed a year ago after a shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, provided $ 100 million to counties to bolster their security measures. But he said more needs to be done, including probably just one entry for small school visitors.

“No matter what you do, there will be someone who will find another area that is vulnerable,” Patrick said.

On Wednesday, school officials, including the district police department, could not be reached for comment on the district security plan.

Protocols show that Uvalde benefited from increased state funding. Expenditures on school security and monitoring services in Uvalde have more than doubled since 2017, increasing by approximately $ 200,000: almost $ 450,000: for the current school year, according to the school district budget documents. District leadership he said In 2020, according to the financial report, the increase in spending was due to new school safety requirements.

In 2020, the state of Texas awarded Uvalde a $ 69,000 grant to be spent on it. hardening measures, such as metal detectors, barriers, security systems և “comprehensive active firing signal systems”, according to state records. Funding was in the state in 2019 initiative to improve physical security.

In April 2018, a few weeks before the Santa Fe shooting, the Uvalde police Two teenagers were charged An apparent replica of a 1999 Colorado school shooting in Columbine for allegedly planning to detonate explosives at a local junior high school. Officials were unable to comment on the incident and whether it affected the region’s security plans.

Image.  Law enforcement at Robbie Elementary School on May 25, 2022, where at least 21 people were killed Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas.
Law enforcement at Robbie Elementary School on May 25.Jordan Wonderharr / Getty Images:

The Uvalde School Security Program also includes student emotional health support և monitoring, including bullying reporting և access to social workers երի case managers.

Such means sometimes described: “As a ‘softening’ of schools as opposed to a physical ‘hardening’ can help reduce violence, if done right, և students have enough confidence in the system to report potential threats,” Meyer said.

The shooter had a hectic home life նշ Signs of restless behavior, but no known history of mental illness or criminal record, state officials said. NBC News has asked for any school reports of intimidation or threats against the shooter, but has not yet received a response.

Mayer stressed the need to look beyond the university’s security and adopt stricter gun laws.

“You can have a school that does everything it can to keep students safe, but it makes no difference if we do not make any changes to gun safety in the wider community,” Mayer said.

Odys Johnson, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Safe and Healthy Schools, agreed.

“Although we have seen so much security in public schools, we have actually seen an increase in the number of people injured in school shootings,” Johnson said. “Schools themselves can not be the only deterrent to gun violence and gunfire. “It will take a more comprehensive approach, which will include arms control.”

Uvalde’s gunman sent a private Facebook message Minutes before the attack, he said he was going for it, Texas Public Safety Director Steve McGraw told a news conference Wednesday. Investigators are looking for earlier signs that they may have missed.

“Obviously this is a situation where we failed in the sense that we did not prevent this massive attack,” McGraw said. “But I can tell you that the officers who arrived at the scene risked their lives to save other children.”

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