Unlocked doors were the ‘first line of defense’ 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 entered a classroom that had a broken lock, experts testified Tuesday.

Securing doors has long been a focus of school safety drills, and the failure to do so during the May 24 attack that left 19 children and two teachers dead runs counter to best practice, experts said.

When the doors are not secure, “your first step, your first line of defense has already been removed, it has really been taken away from you,” said Ken Trump, president of the National School Safety and Security Services.

Questions about how the shooter got into Robb Elementary and what happened at various doors have been a big part of the changing information about the attack.

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THE GUNMAN ARRIVED AT THE OUTER DOOR?

State police initially said the gunman entered the school through an exterior door that had been opened by a teacher.

Days later, state police retracted that statement to make it clear that the teacher locked the door. But somehow it didn’t crash.

Nearly a month after the rampage, Colonel Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, further modified what his agency’s investigation shows: The teacher closed the door, but unbeknownst to her, it could only be closed from outside.

The gunman “walked right in,” McCraw said Tuesday in searing testimony at a state Senate hearing in Austin.

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

“I’m trying to think if I’ve ever seen that. It’s so rare that that’s the case. Why wouldn’t there be an opportunity to close 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 home security?” he asked. “In my opinion, only being able to block from the outside is totally unacceptable.”

The experts did not explain during the hearing why the outer door of the school was closed from the outside. Robb Elementary is an older building, built in 1955.

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THE GUNMAN ARRIVED AT THE CLASSROOM DOOR?

Once inside the school, the shooter entered a classroom with a door that couldn’t be locked from the inside by design, according to McCraw, who also said a teacher reported before the shooting that the lock was broken.

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

“That’s about how you responsibly manage and maintain school property,” Stephens said.

McCraw also revealed Tuesday that even though the door was open, there is no indication that officers tried to open it during the standoff. He said police instead waited for a key.

Stephens said the way the situation unfolded spoke to the broader need to have a crisis plan.

“To me, there’s a whole cascade of apparent failures that occurred in this particular situation,” he said. “It’s a wake-up call for everyone across the United States.”

HAVE THERE BEEN PROBLEMS?

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

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

Another teacher who was unable to close a classroom door told investigators that she looked down the halls, saw a custodian who yelled at the gunman to leave and instructed the custodian to lock the door.

Sandy Hook Elementary School was also built in 1955.

WHAT STEPS ARE RECOMMENDED?

State and federal panels tasked with reviewing individual mass shootings have repeatedly advised schools to limit access by locking exterior doors, as well as forcing visitors to enter through a secure door and requiring teachers to lock classrooms while classes are in session. they are in session.

Teachers and students practice how to respond.

Close the door, turn off the light. Put the kids and staff in a hard corner, meaning not in direct line of sight of the window where someone can shoot, and keep quiet,” Trump said.

He said such actions can “absolutely” save lives.

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

He said shooters’ adrenaline runs out and they know that, in most cases, their time is limited.

“They’re not going to spend a lot of time trying to get into a locked door where they may or may not know if someone is inside, if the kids are quiet and out of sight. They will continue to move to where they have a more accessible target.”

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

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