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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Uvalde outrages after school failures, focus on solutions

UVALDE, Texas ( Associated Press) — Mario Jimenez’s son was in an adjacent class when the shooting began at Rob Elementary School in Uvalde. The 10-year-old hit his teacher and a friend with bullets passing through the wall. Now, Jimenez worries that the boy will never feel safe in class again.

“I don’t think these kids are going to feel safe going back to school, no matter what they do. They are supposedly protected by the system, and they know the system has failed them,” he said .

Law enforcement’s poor decisions have attracted widespread criticism after the May shootings, in which 19 children and two teachers were killed, but the Uvalde school system is also taking its share of blame for basic failures – open doors, A patchy warning system and lax enforcement of rules. Now, angry parents and politicians want concrete security solutions as this attack becomes part of a larger conversation about how to prepare students for emergencies without potentially inflicting the emotional toll with active-shooter exercises. .

An investigation report released Sunday by the Texas Legislature found that the district did not immediately consider maintenance issues such as broken doors and locks. For example, the lock on the door of one of the classrooms where the shooting took place was known to be faulty, and the House Committee concluded that the shooter could have entered the room through that open door.

The House committee found in Rob Elementary “a regrettable culture of non-compliance by school personnel who frequently opened doors and deliberately bypassed locks”. The report said school administrators and district police accepted the behavior quietly, noting that the school “suggested the practice to facilitate substitute teachers and others who did not have their own keys.”

At the Uvalde school board meeting this week, parents and families were outraged by the oversight. Jazmine Cazares, whose younger sister Jacqueline was murdered, asked what the school district would do so that students could feel safe returning.

“How am I supposed to get back here? I’m a senior. How am I supposed to get back to this school?” Cazares asked the school board on Monday. “How do you make sure I don’t have to spend 77 minutes bleeding on the school floor like my little sister?”

At the same meeting, Rachel Martinez announces she is unwilling to send her daughter Layla back to school when an armed intruder kills 21 people—and she had any confidence that Layla will be safe.

“This failure falls on you all,” Martinez told the board in the three-hour meeting. “When you go home and lock your doors tonight, remember: It doesn’t have to be a luxury.”

Most US school systems impose lockdowns and active-shooter exercises that, in some cases, involve fake bullets and blood as children are quietly out of sight. But according to experts, practice is only part of the equation.

The impulse to double-down on simulation or buy the latest gadget is understandable, said Amy Klingman, founder of the Educators School Safety Network, but those reactions could be part of a larger plan that involves implementing fundamentals, such as doors. Closing and training staff. The practice may emphasize securing a classroom or removing children early in a variety of scenarios, such as a parent attempting to take a child without legal custody.

“Why does history keep repeating itself? Because we keep doing the same thing,” Klingman said. “We just keep emphasizing active-shooter response, and we don’t make daily operational safety a part of what we do.”

The Uvalde report uncovered another potential flaw: routinely sounding the alarm can reduce alertness and lull schools into a false sense of security.

The school’s proximity to the border with Mexico meant that border patrol agents or state police personnel were attempting to apprehend migrants in the area, with frequent lockouts. Between February and May, the school experienced around 50 lockdowns or security alerts.

“After a time, you’ll have less expectation of alertness… ‘Oh, here’s another. We’re doing it again,'” said Mo Kennedy, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers. Schools with multiple alerts may consider a leveling system that differentiates between danger levels, he said.

But not all employees got alerts because of poor Wi-Fi or phone being turned off or in drawer. Some employees had to log into computers to receive messages, the report found. Others didn’t understand how to use the system, said Uvalde coach Ben Adams.

“It was presented to us in a short 10-minute presentation before school started,” Adams said at the meeting.

Elizabeth Ruiz, a mother of three at Uvalde Schools, said students at Rob Elementary underwent “so many, so, so many” lockdowns this year, but believes in improving the building’s physical security – a measure of entry. The point and need is scannable detection – will do more than a potentially horrendous exercise.

“Yes, kids need to practice, but it has to be more than ‘get under the table,'” Ruiz said.

For years, some parents and teachers have warned that the practice is painful for students, whose mental health has become an even greater concern over the rebound from COVID-19 disruptions.

“It’s not about trying to scare people outright,” Klingman said. “It’s about doing the right thing that makes a difference.”

Jimenez worries that continuing to practice active-shooter drills will further traumatize her son and other children living during the shooting, “because in their minds they are probably already thinking, ‘This is going to protect me. Not there.'”

Jimenez is not impressed by the school district’s plan to fix locks and install cameras. He wants buildings to be turned into key-card access and for schools to “hire real security – the people who will do their jobs.”

He hopes that teachers and administrators of schools across the country see what happened in Uvalde and improve security before the tragedy strikes again.

“No parent here wants to send their kids to school,” Jimenez said.

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Thompson reported from Buffalo, NY and Ma from San Francisco.

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The Associated Press education team receives support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Associated Press is solely responsible for all content.

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Associated Press reporting about race and ethnicity issues is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. Associated Press is solely responsible for all content.

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More on the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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