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Safe doors were the ‘first line of defence’ at Uvalde School

The Uvalde massacre began after the 18-year-old gunman entered the school through a door that could only be locked from the outside and then got into a classroom with a broken lock. Experts testified on Tuesday.

Securing doors has long been a focus of school safety drills, and the inability to do so during school hours May 24 attack that killed 19 children and two teachers violates best practices, experts said.

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

Questions about how the shooter entered Robb Elementary and what happened at multiple doors were a big part of the changing information about the attack.

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WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THE SHOOTER REACHED THE OUTSIDE DOOR?

State police initially said the gunman entered the school through an outside door that was held open by a teacher.

Days later, state police retracted that statement to clarify The teacher closed the door. But somehow it didn’t click into place.

Nearly a month after the shooting, Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, made further changes, which his agency’s investigation shows: The teacher closed the door, but unbeknownst to her, it could only be locked from the outside.

The shooter “walked straight through,” McCraw said Tuesday in a glowing testimony at a state senate hearing in Austin.

Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center, said he was “amazed” that the outer door could only be locked from the outside.

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“I’m trying to think if I’ve ever seen it at all. It’s so rare that that would be the case. Why shouldn’t there be a way to lock it from the inside?”

He compared it to a house that could only be locked from the outside.

“Shouldn’t school security be just as secure as your home security?” he asked. “Only being able to lock from the outside is just totally unacceptable in my opinion.”

Experts did not explain during the hearing why the school’s outer door was locked from the outside. Robb Elementary is an older building, built in 1955.

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THE SHOOTER REACHED THE CLASSROOM DOOR?

At the school, the shooter then entered a classroom with a door that couldn’t be locked from the inside, according to McCraw, who also said a teacher reported the lock had been picked prior to the shooting.

The fact that it didn’t work was a maintenance issue, Stephens and Trump said.

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“This is how you manage and care for school property in a responsible way,” Stephens said.

McCraw also announced Tuesday that despite the fact that the door was unlocked, there is no indication officers attempted to open it during the standoff. He said police waited for a key instead.

Stephens said the way the situation has unfolded speaks to a general need to have a contingency plan in place.

“To me, there’s just a whole cascade of obvious mistakes that happened in this particular situation,” he said. “It’s a wake-up call for everyone across America.”

ARE THERE ANY PROBLEMS?

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

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

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Another teacher who couldn’t lock a classroom door told investigators that she looked down the hallways and saw a janitor yelling at the gunman to leave and motioning for the janitor to lock her door.

Sandy Hook Elementary was also built in 1955.

WHAT STEPS ARE RECOMMENDED?

State and federal bodies tasked with reviewing individual mass shootings advised again and again Schools can restrict access by locking exterior doors, forcing visitors to enter through a secure door, and requiring teachers to lock classrooms during class.

Teachers and students practice how to react.

“Lock the door, turn off the light. Put the children and staff in a hard corner, i.e. not in direct line of sight of the window where someone could shoot through, and be quiet,” Trump said.

He said these measures can “absolutely” save lives.

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External doors “keep the threat out of the building. Your next layer inside is your locked doors to your classrooms, officers, and work areas. All these shifts are meant to buy time,” he said.

He said shooters’ adrenaline is rising and they know their time – in most cases – is limited.

“They won’t spend a lot of time getting into a locked door where they may or may not know if someone is inside, if the children are quiet and out of sight. They will keep going where they have a more accessible destination.”

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Find more AP coverage of the Uvalde school shootings: https://apnews.com/hub/uvalde-school-shooting

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

https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/06/22/secure-doors-were-first-line-of-defense-at-uvalde-school/ Safe doors were the ‘first line of defence’ at Uvalde School

Sarah Y. Kim

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