Measures were taken at Rob Elementary School to prevent such violence. There was a fence on the school property. Teachers were ordered to keep the classroom doors closed and closed. The students faced regular lockdown and evacuation exercises.
But when an 18-year-old man came to a school in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday with the intention of killing children, no one stopped him.
Security failures allowed the shooter to kill 19 students and two teachers, school security experts say. On top of the millions spent on equipment and other measures after the earlier shootings, the shootings have already sparked calls for further strengthening of schools. But greater security provides loopholes, no guarantee of an end to mass violence. In the worst case, like Uvalde, it can backfire.
Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center, a nonprofit that works with schools, said, “The best thing you can do is to prevent a school crisis, but we can’t read the minds of all those criminals.” who are there.” across the country. “We can’t stop all crimes.”
In accordance with the District Security Plan, extensive measures were taken to prevent violence in Uvalde schools. As per the plan, there were four police officers and four assistant counselors in the district, which appears to be from the 2019-20 school year. The district had software to monitor social media and software for screening of school visitors.
Yet when the gunman reached the school, he cut through its fence and easily entered through the back door, which was kept open, officials said. Behind the closed doors of a fourth grade classroom, he shot children and teachers.
Amid the attack, about 20 officers stood in a hallway because the on-site commander believed the gunman had been barricaded in the classroom and that children were not at risk, said Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. “It was the wrong decision,” he told a news conference on Friday.
The case underscores that even the most robust safety plans can be undermined by a simple lapse, said Curtis Lavarello, executive director of the School Safety Advocacy Council, which provides training on school safety. He said the Texas school was doing many things right, but none of that mattered when the gunman was able to walk unhindered into the building and into the classroom.
“All those things on paper have no meaning if they are not followed in practice. And there seem to be many gaps,” he said.
After the shootings, some Republicans are calling for more investment in school security to prevent further attacks. Some have called for more armed police in schools, as well as metal detectors and measures to make school admissions more difficult.
Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz is among those promoting physical security measures. Appearing on Fox News on Wednesday, he brought in a 2013 law that gave grants to help schools install bulletproof doors and employ armed police officers.
If those grants had gone to Rob Elementary, Cruise said, “the armed police officers could have pulled him out and we’d have 19 kids and two teachers still alive.”
Security experts say Uvalde’s case shows how strengthening schools can backfire. A lock on the classroom door – one of the most basic and widely recommended school security measures – keeps victims in and police out.
US Border Patrol agents eventually used a master key to open the locked door of the classroom, where they confronted and killed the gunman, McCraw said at a Friday news conference.
Some argue that the investment in school security has been made at the expense of student welfare. Educators say the lockdown exercise that has become routine for a generation of American students has traumatized students and put mental health pressure on them.
Schools need more counselors and psychologists to help troubled students, not stronger buildings, said Davy Cornell, psychologist and director of the Virginia Youth Violence Project at the University of Virginia.
“We have systematically reduced the number of support staff in our schools, and have focused heavily on installing metal detectors and surveillance cameras and electronic door locks, which are too short-lived and responsive and too expensive,” They said.
In the wake of the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, schools across the country began spending huge sums of money on fortifications, which include bulletproof glasses, metal detectors, and armed security.
But such measures can create an environment where students feel uncomfortable and less trusted, and this does not necessarily prevent attacks, said Matthew Meyer, an associate professor at Rutgers University who focuses on issues related to school violence. work.
Mayer said, “You’ll go under such endless harbingers of how much protection is enough. And when it comes to someone who’s heavily armed, you’re not going to stop them.” “So the idea is that you need to figure out why people do it in the first place and have ways — multilevel systems of prevention — to prevent it from happening.”
He advocates a multifaceted prevention approach that also includes steps such as improving mental health services, assessing threats more effectively, and building trust, so that students and families are not afraid to speak up if they are concerned that someone may Has the means or intention to cause harm.
Still, schools can only do so much, he said, and he’s not optimistic that public outrage over Uvalde will lead to significant change.
“The problem is that a lot of this public reaction, you know, rises like a wave and then subsides over time, and politicians have become accustomed to taking it out. You know, they give speeches. And so forth, and sometimes there’s a commission that gets appointed, and they issue reports,” Mayer said. “But real change is lacking.”