A Lesson From Uvalde: Hold Schools Accountable For Childrens Safety and Security

Robb Elementary Uvalde
Robb Elementary Uvalde crime scene photo


Ultimately, it’s up to parents to do everything they can to ensure their kids’ safety and security.  We expect school officials to keep our children safe while they’re at school. Unfortunately some school officials don’t. Some are too lazy to ensure exterior doors are secure. Others suffer from a mental denial response that anything bad would ever happen at their school.  Denial, of course, has no survival value.

Even if they mean well, not all school administrators have the expertise in safety and security to successfully implement best practices to keep kids safe from lunatics and criminals who might want to do the unthinkable. That’s where we as parents must step up and hold school officials accountable for the safety and security of our kids. A failure to do so can result in unimaginable horror.

Take Uvalde, Texas for instance. The officials there had a “no guns” policy (they still do, see page 63) prohibiting staff from having guns even though Texas law allows it. They also had a school police force, but those officers prioritized their own safety over the lives of children they were paid to protect.

Local law enforcement failed to follow widely accepted protocols for dealing with an active shooter. As a result, kids who didn’t have to die bled out while police waited 75 minutes to take out the killer.

Crime scene photo from Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas 

The Washington Times reported on the cascading failuresWe covered it here as well . . .

Police officials who responded to the deadly Uvalde, Texas, elementary school shooting waited far too long to confront the gunman, acted with “no urgency” in establishing a command post and communicated inaccurate information to grieving families, according to a Justice Department report released Thursday that identifies “cascading failures” in law enforcement’s handling of the massacre.

The Justice Department report, the most comprehensive federal accounting of the maligned police response to the May 24, 2022, shooting at Robb Elementary School, catalogs a sweeping array of training, communication, leadership and technology problems that federal officials say contributed to the crisis lasting far longer than necessary. All the while, the report says, terrified students inside the classrooms called 911 and agonized parents begged officers to go in.

“Had law enforcement agencies followed generally accepted practices in active shooter situations and gone right after the shooter and stopped him, lives would have been saved and people would have survived,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday at a news conference in Uvalde after Justice Department officials briefed family members on their findings. The Uvalde victims, he said, “deserved better.”

Even for a mass shooting that has already been the subject of intense scrutiny and in-depth examinations – an earlier report by Texas lawmakers, for instance, faulted law enforcement at every level with failing “to prioritize saving innocent lives over their own safety” – the nearly 600-page Justice Department report adds to the public understanding of how officers failed to stop an attack that killed 19 children and two staff members.

What can you do to make sure your kids’ or grandkids’ school takes security seriously and aggressively mitigates risks? First and foremost, visit the school yourself. If you as a layperson see obvious security failures like unlocked exterior doors during school hours, there may be other issues that you didn’t notice. If school officials aren’t aware of these deficiencies and are working to correct them, we as parents can help nudge them in the right direction.

No one likes to deal with heightened security…until after the wolf is at the door. Unlocking doors every time instead of propping them open takes effort. Teaching staff not to hold open a door for unknown people as a courtesy is also contrary to what those not sensitive to security considerations are used to doing. However, when it comes to saving lives, proactivity beats reactivity every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Don’t assume. Act.

Know and assess your kids’ school security protocols. Then open a dialogue with your local school administrators. Yeah, it’s not a conversation that they are used to having with adults.

The NRA’s School Shield program provides a great apolitical springboard for those discussions. Share their suggested questions in your initial email to administrators so they get an idea of what you’re looking for. Some school administrators will be uncomfortable with this unusual attempt to evaluate their security program.

However, holding administrators responsible and accountable for ensuring your kids’ safety is more important than your worries about making them a little uncomfortable ahead of your meeting with them.

Remember…the harder the target, the less likely a bad guy will successfully recreate another Parkland or Uvalde in your hometown.

Here are some questions the School Shield program has put together for parents to ask teachers and administrators to make sure they don’t have their heads in the sand when it comes to students’ safety . . .

1. Has our school ever had a vulnerability assessment done?

2. Does our school work with local law enforcement and emergency responders in crisis planning and training?

3. When was our emergency operations/crisis management plan last reviewed?

4. What types of drills are conducted at our school and at what frequency?

5. Are all exterior doors of our school locked during instructional hours?

6. Are all visitors to our school required to check in with the main office?

7. Are students and staff trained on how to identify and report suspicious or concerning behaviors/comments?

8. Does our school have a behavioral threat assessment team?

9. If there is an emergency, how and when are parents/guardians notified?

10. Do we have designated security personnel assigned to our school? If so, are they armed/unarmed?

Here’s a guide you can download and print out with all of these questions. Or you can email it to your school’s administrators.

The School Shield website also has a series of videos talking about the security analysis their experts provide from the perspective of teachers, parents, paramedics, etc., as well as ways to implement increased security without frightening parents.

Don’t assume your kid’s school is as safe as it could (or should) be. You can help them make sure they work to mitigate risks and maximize safety. The life you save might be your son’s or daughter’s.

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