sunny.png
Friday June 24th, 2022 7:02PM

Unlocked doors were 'first line of defense' at Uvalde school

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

The Uvalde massacre began after the 18-year-old gunman entered the school through a door that could only be locked from the outside then got inside a classroom that had a busted lock, experts testified Tuesday.

Securing doors has long been a focus of school safety drills, and the inability to do so during the May 24 attack that left 19 children and two teachers dead is raising alarms among experts and politicians.

When doors are not secure, “your first step, your first line of defense has now been eliminated," said Ken Trump, the president of the National School Safety and Security Services.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt said unlockable doors make lockdowns and shooter training worthless, adding that there was “zero obstacle to the shooter."

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

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THE GUNMAN REACHED THE OUTSIDE DOOR?

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

Days later, state police retracted that statement to make it clear that the teacher closed the door. But somehow it didn't lock.

Nearly a month after the rampage, Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, further amended what his agency's investigation shows: The teacher did close the door, but unbeknownst to her, it could be locked only from the outside.

The gunman “walked straight through,” McCraw said Tuesday in blistering testimony at a state Senate hearing in Austin.

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

“Shouldn’t the security of the school be as safe as the security of your home?" he asked.

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

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THE GUNMAN REACHED THE CLASSROOM DOOR?

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 a teacher reported before the shooting that the lock was broken.

“This is ridiculous and it’s inexcusable,” McCraw said of the fact that the classroom door could not be locked from inside.

Stephens and Trump also raised alarms about the fact that the door was broken, describing it as a maintenance issue.

McCraw also disclosed Tuesday that despite the door being unlocked, there was no indication officers tried to open it during the standoff. He said police instead waited for more than an hour for a key.

“To me," Stephens said, “there’s just a whole cascade of apparent failures that took place in this particular situation."

WHY DID THE DOORS LOCK FROM THE OUTSIDE?

Many schools designed in the 20th century featured classroom doors that locked from the outside, allowing the teacher or administrator to lock up as they left for the day, Todd Ferking explained in an email. Ferking is a design leader for DLR Group, an architecture firm that specializes in school design.

“Locking from inside the classroom may not have been a popular option out of concern that students could lock the teacher out,” he said.

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

Today, it also is general practice that all exterior doors are locked during school hours, except during drop-off and pick-up, he said.

HAVE THERE BEEN PROBLEMS BEFORE?

At Sandy Hook Elementary School, the doors of the 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.

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

Another teacher who could not get a classroom door locked told investigators that she looked into the hallway, saw a janitor who yelled at the gunman to leave and motioned to the janitor to lock her door.

Sandy Hook Elementary was built around the same time as Robb Elementary, in 1956.

Mo Canady, the 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.

“That school," he said of Robb Elementary, “I can promise you, is not the only one in this country that you can’t lock the doors from the inside."

Such doors, he said, occasionally are spotted during assessments of buildings, particularly older ones. He described it as “unacceptable" and urged schools to fix busted doors and retrofit doors that only lock from the outside while students are on summer break.

“The basics are so important, and if your school district does not have doors that will allow the teachers to secure those in a lockdown, that’s a priority," he said. “Those things really can and do save lives."

WHAT STEPS ARE RECOMMENDED?

State and federal panels charged 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.

Teachers and students drill for how to respond.

“Lock the door, turn off the light. Get the kids and staff into a hard corner, meaning not in the direct line of sight of the window where somebody can shoot through, and be quiet," Trump said.

He said those actions can “absolutely" save lives.

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

Powell said part of that review involved ensuring that the school's safety protocols met the standards of the Texas Education Agency. The review also included everything from evaluating cooling systems to windows.

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

But before that review got underway in earnest, the shooting happened. Since then, Powell said, the district has asked the firm to expand the scope of its security review. Other districts also have been calling seeking security reviews.

“We would all have wished that something would have been implemented and would have had the time to be implemented before they had the exposure to this type of a situation,” he said.

___

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

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Business
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Senators reach bipartisan compromise on gun violence bill
Senate bargainers have reached agreement on a bipartisan gun violence bill
10:06PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Texas top cop: Uvalde police could've ended rampage early on
The head of the Texas Department of Public Safety says three minutes after a gunman entered a school where he slaughtered 19 elementary students and two teachers there was sufficient armed law enforcement on scene to stop the gunman
9:40PM ( 37 minutes ago )
Election 2022: Britt beats Brooks in Alabama Senate runoff
Katie Britt has won the Republican nomination for Senate in Alabama, defeating six-term Congressman Mo Brooks in a primary runoff after former President Donald Trump endorsed and then un-endorsed him
9:32PM ( 46 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
South Dakota AG convicted on 2 impeachment charges, removed
The South Dakota Senate convicted Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg of two impeachment charges stemming from a 2020 fatal accident, removing and barring him from future office
8:56PM ( 1 hour ago )
Jan. 6 panel in possession of new Trump documentary footage
New footage of former President Donald Trump and his inner circle taken both before and after Jan. 6, 2021, is now in the possession of the House committee investigating the deadly attack on the Capitol
8:46PM ( 1 hour ago )
Election 2022: Trump logs additional losses in Georgia
After bruising defeats in last month’s Georgia primaries, former President Donald Trump’s losing streak in the state continued Tuesday as two of his endorsed congressional candidates faltered
8:45PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Massive New Mexico blaze blamed on miscalculations, errors
U.S. Forest Service employees made multiple miscalculations, used inaccurate models and underestimated how dry conditions were, causing a planned burn to reduce the threat of wildfires to turn into the largest blaze in New Mexico's recorded history
6:48PM ( 3 hours ago )
South Dakota AG barred from future office after impeachment
South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has been barred from holding future office following his conviction on impeachment charges in a 2020 crash that killed a pedestrian
6:40PM ( 3 hours ago )
Yellowstone flooding rebuild could take years, cost billions
Yellowstone National Park is celebrating its 150th anniversary as it faces its biggest challenge in decades
6:13PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Jan. 6 takeaways: Trump's state playbook; 'hateful' threats
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection is turning to former President Donald Trump’s pressure campaign on state and local officials to overturn his 2020 election loss
6:38PM ( 3 hours ago )
Civil jury finds Bill Cosby sexually abused teenager in 1975
Civil trial jurors have found that Bill Cosby sexually abused a 16-year-old girl at the Playboy Mansion in 1975
6:38PM ( 3 hours ago )
Jan. 6 takeaways: Trump's 'playbook' to overturn election
A House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection is turning to former President Donald Trump’s pressure campaign on state and local officials to overturn his 2020 election loss
3:39PM ( 6 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Senators reach bipartisan compromise on gun violence bill
Senate bargainers have reached agreement on a bipartisan gun violence bill
10:06PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Texas top cop: Uvalde police could've ended rampage early on
The head of the Texas Department of Public Safety says three minutes after a gunman entered a school where he slaughtered 19 elementary students and two teachers there was sufficient armed law enforcement on scene to stop the gunman
9:40PM ( 39 minutes ago )
Election 2022: Britt beats Brooks in Alabama Senate runoff
Katie Britt has won the Republican nomination for Senate in Alabama, defeating six-term Congressman Mo Brooks in a primary runoff after former President Donald Trump endorsed and then un-endorsed him
9:32PM ( 47 minutes ago )
Matthews wins Hart Trophy as NHL's most valuable player
Toronto’s Auston Matthews won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player, beating out Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers to win the award for the first time
9:29PM ( 50 minutes ago )
MLB standardizes how baseballs are prepped to be put in play
Major League Baseball is standardizing procedures for rubbing baseballs and their removal from humidors in an effort to establish more consistency amid complaints about slickness that followed the crackdown on sticky substances
9:26PM ( 53 minutes ago )