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Thursday, December 01, 2022

Open doors were ‘first line of defence’ at Uvalde school

The Uvalde massacre began when an 18-year-old gunman entered the school through a door that could only be locked from outside, then broke into a classroom that had a broken lock, experts testified Tuesday,

Door security has long been a focus of school security exercises, and the inability to do so during the May 24 attack that killed 19 children and two teachers. Raising alarm among experts and politicians.

When the doors aren’t secure, “your first step, your first line of defense is now gone,” said Ken Trump, president of the National School Safety and Security Services.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt said the unlockable doors make the lockdown and shooter training useless, adding that there was “zero obstruction to the shooter.”

Questions about how the shooter entered Rob Elementary and what happened at several doors have been a big part of the changing information about the attack.

What happened when the gunman reached the outside door?

The state police had initially said that the gunman entered the school through the outer door, which was opened by a teacher.

A few days later, the state police retracted that statement to clarify that the teacher had locked the door., But somehow it didn’t lock.

About a month after the stampede, Colonel Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, made further amendments to what his agency’s investigation reveals: the teacher closed the door, but did not know it, only locked it from the outside. could go.

McCraw said Tuesday in a scathing testimony at a state Senate hearing in Austin, the gunman “went straight through”.

Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center, said he was “surprised” that the exterior door could only be locked from the outside. He compared it to a house that could only be closed from outside.

“Shouldn’t school security be as secure as your home security?” He asked.

The experts did not explain during the hearing why the outer door of the school was locked from outside. Rob Elementary is an old building, constructed in 1955.

What happened when the gunman reached the classroom door?

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Once inside the school, the shooter then entered a classroom though a door that was designed to be locked from the outside, according to McCraw, who also said that a teacher reported before the shooting that the lock broke. was.

“It’s ridiculous and it’s unforgivable,” McCraw said of the fact that the classroom door couldn’t be locked from the inside.

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Stephens and Trump also raised concerns about the fact that the door was broken, calling it a maintenance issue.

McCraw also revealed on Tuesday that despite the door being open, there was no indication that officers tried to open it during the standoff. He said the police waited for over an hour for the keys.

“To me,” Stephens said, “there’s a whole cascade of obvious failures that happened in this particular situation.”

Why were the doors locked from outside?

Todd Farking explained in an email that many schools designed in the 20th century had classroom doors that were locked to the outside, allowing the teacher or administrator to exit for the day. Farking is a design leader for DLR Group, an architecture firm that specializes in school design.

“Locking up from inside the classroom may not be a popular option given the concern that students may oust the teacher,” he said.

The Columbine tragedy led to an evolution in school construction, he said, with most new classrooms designed to provide locking from the inside via the turn of a key or thumb.

It is also common practice today that all exterior doors are closed during school hours, except for drop-off and pick-up, he said.

Have there been problems before?

At Sandy Hook Elementary School, the doors of two classrooms where all 20 children were killed in the 2012 massacre, along with their teachers, could only be locked from the hallway with a key.

The families of some of the victims have said that lives could have been saved if teachers had been able to lock the classroom doors from inside, and they questioned whether there was also access to the keys of the two teachers killed in the shooting, Victoria Soto and Lauren Russo. Was.

Another teacher who could not close the classroom door told investigators that she looked in the hallway, saw a janitor who shouted for the gunman to leave and told the janitor to lock his door.

Sandy Hook Elementary was built in 1956 in the same way as Robb Elementary.

Mo Kennedy, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, spoke publicly about the importance of being able to secure doors after Sandy Hook. He lamented that it was still an issue a decade later.

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“That school,” he said of Rob Elementary, “I can promise you, isn’t the only one in this country that you can’t lock the doors on the inside.”

He said such doors are sometimes seen during assessments of buildings, especially older ones. He described it as “unacceptable” and urged schools to fix broken doors and reinstall doors that are only locked from outside while students are on summer vacation.

“The basics are very important, and if your school district doesn’t have doors that will allow teachers to be safe in lockdown, that’s a priority,” he said. “Those things can and do really save lives.”

Which steps are suggested?

State and federal panels charged with reviewing individual mass shootings have repeatedly advised Schools are required to limit access by locking exterior doors as well as forcing visitors to enter through a secure door and requiring teachers to lock classrooms during classes.

Teachers and students practice how to answer.

“Shut the door, turn off the lights. Get the kids and staff into a hard corner, meaning not in a straight line to the window, where someone can shoot, and be quiet,” Trump said.

He said those actions could “absolutely” save lives.

In March Uvalde retained PBK, a design, architecture, engineering and planning firm that focuses on schools, to review its buildings as it considered a potential bond issue, said Ian Powell. , who is the head of safety and security for the firm.

Powell said part of that review includes making sure the school’s safety protocols meet Texas Education Agency standards. The review included everything from the cooling system evaluation to the windows.

He said more schools are opting for so-called door lock indicators, which make it easier for teachers to see if their door is locked inside their classrooms. Texas does not require such locks. Powell said he doesn’t know any jurisdictions, although the firm recommends them.

But before the reviews were going in earnest, the shooting got done. Since then, Powell said, the district has asked the firm to expand the scope of its security review. Other districts are also demanding a security review.

“We all wanted something implemented and had time to implement it before we were exposed to this type of situation,” he said.

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Get more Associated Press coverage of the Uvalde school shooting: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting

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