UVALDE, Texas - Perimeter fencing. Locked classroom doors. Student lockdown drills. The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District has a comprehensive, 21-point strategy to keep kids safe, according to its website.
Still, "they were unprepared," said parents who waited outside the school for at least 40 minutes while Salvador Ramos killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers in the deadliest school shooting in Texas history.
The school district, which serves a community of about 16,000 residents, has its own four-person police department: a chief, a detective and two officers. Secondary campuses have security staff.
Despite the security measures in place, Ramos was able to get into the school through an unlocked door and into a classroom full of children and their teachers.
"More could have been done," said Javier Cazares, whose fourth grade daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was killed in the attack.
What other security measures does the Uvalde School District use?
UVALDE, TEXAS - MAY 26: A memorial is seen surrounding the Robb Elementary School sign following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 26, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. According to reports, 19 students and 2 adults were killed, with the gunman
According to the Uvalde school district’s website, these are the security measures in place:
- Locked classroom doors: "Teachers are instructed to keep their classroom doors closed and locked at all times. Barriers are not to be used," the district said. A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press that the Border Patrol agents who eventually killed the suspect had trouble breaching the classroom door and had to get a staff member to open the room with a key.
- Student drills: Students are trained on the protocol for "lockout, lockdown, evacuate, shelter, and hold," the district’s website said, and drills for each are done regularly.
- Threat assessment teams: The district said every campus has an "interdisciplinary" threat assessment team that addresses security risks. "This includes notification and involvement of parents, a suicide risk assessment, and the development of a written safety plan."
- Partnerships with local law enforcement: Local police officers are welcome on every campus and receive free lunch or breakfast when they visit.
- Case managers and social workers for students and staff
- Social media monitoring: The district contracts with an outside company, Social Sentinel, to monitor social media posts and identify potential threats to students or staff.
- Raptor Technologies: A school security system called Raptor Visitor Management is used to screen for sex offenders and people who violate custody orders on campus. It also provides districtwide reporting on all visitors, the district said.
- Canine services: Specially trained dogs make unannounced visits to schools throughout the year to sniff for drugs, alcohol, ammunition, gunpowder and firearms.
- Motion detectors and alarms: "Most campuses have motion detectors and alarms installed that alert key personnel and emergency responders when the campus has been breached after hours."
- Counselors: Four full-time counselors are assigned to the eight schools in the district.
- Perimeter fencing: Robb Elementary is one of three schools in the district with fencing designed to limit access to campus.
- Security vestibules and door buzz-in system: The district said two schools — a high school and an elementary school — have security vestibules, or spaces with two or more doors designed to keep visitors in a secure area until they’re cleared for entry using a buzz-in system. Robb Elementary did not have a vestibule, according to the website.
- Limited lunch deliveries: Parents are allowed to eat lunch with their child at school, but the district doesn’t allow parents to drop off food. "This helps reduce interruptions to classrooms and decreases distractions to office staff during that busy time of day when active monitoring is so critical."
- Security cameras: The district has about 100 cameras at two schools, a middle school and a high school.
- Radios for staff: School leaders have radios to communicate across campus.
- Portable metal detectors and backpack searches at the high school football stadium
- Crisis intervention training: The district said all staff on campuses are trained for emergency protocols, and some staff members on campuses are CPI-trained, also known as non-violent intervention certification training.
- Bullying reporting system: The STOP!T app allows students to privately report bullying and other dangers or threats they may be facing at school.
- Threat reporting system: The district encourages students, parents, staff and stakeholders to report anything "that is deemed troubling," including information about weapons, threats, fights, drugs, self-harm or suicide.
- Police officers: The district employs four police officers: a chief, a detective and two officers.
- Security guards: Secondary campuses have security guards who patrol entrances and perimeters. Robb Elementary had a security guard on campus the day of the attack.
Police face questions, criticism over delays in storming school
During the siege, which ended when a Border Patrol team burst in and shot Ramos to death, frustrated onlookers urged police officers to charge into the school, according to witnesses.
Cazares said he raced to the school when he heard about the shooting, arriving while police were still gathered outside the building. Upset that police were not moving in, he raised the idea of charging into the school with several other bystanders.
UVALDE, TEXAS - MAY 25: Community members embrace and mourn together at a vigil for the 21 victims in the mass shooting at Rob Elementary School on May 25, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
"Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to," he said. "More could have been done. They were unprepared."
Initial reports said there was an armed school officer at Robb Elementary the day of the massacre, but officials said that's not true. He was driving nearby when the attack began, a law enforcement source told The Associated Press.
Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told reporters that 40 minutes to an hour elapsed from when Ramos opened fire on the school security officer to when the tactical team shot him, though a department spokesman said later that they could not give a solid estimate of how long the gunman was in the school or when he was killed.
"The bottom line is law enforcement was there," McCraw said. "They did engage immediately. They did contain (Ramos) in the classroom."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.