Locks on All Exterior Doors at Texas Schools to Be Assessed
The announcement came during a Texas Senate committee hearing where authorities said the door to the classroom where the killings happened was not locked.
Locks on exterior doors at all Texas schools will be checked to ensure they work properly following the Robb Elementary School shooting.
Before the start of the next school year, Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath said the agency will review the external entry points of every K-12 school, which is estimated to be 340,000 doors, reports The Texas Tribune. The state consists of more than 1,200 school districts and over 3,000 campuses.
Morath’s announcement came during Tuesday’s Texas Senate committee hearing about the shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead. Door safety became a topic of discussion shortly after the massacre when it was originally reported that a teacher propped open a back door, giving the gunman access to the school. Authorities later clarified that the teacher closed the door when she saw the gunman but it is believed that the automatic lock failed.
TEA plans to evaluate what repairs may be needed to secure campuses and will go to lawmakers once it has determined how much hardware upgrades would cost. It will also review each district’s safety protocols and meetings held between state officials and each district’s school safety committee.
In 2019, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 11, which tasks the Texas School Safety Center with ensuring all districts have adequate emergency plans. The agency can call on the TEA to act as conservator to make sure plans are compliant, said Morath.
Morath also said the TEA has rule-making authority over things such as safety drills and threat exercises.
“We are moving with a great deal of speed on this,” he said.
Classroom Door Was Never Locked
At the same hearing, Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw called law enforcement’s response to the shooting an “abject failure” and said the shooter could have been stopped when 11 officers entered the school three minutes later, according to NBC News.
The officers with heavier firepower and tactical equipment were there within 19 minutes of the gunman arriving on campus. The massacre ended nearly an hour and a half after it started when a Border Patrol tactical unit finally entered the classroom.
Previous reports claiming police were unable to enter the conjoined classroom where the killings occurred because the door was locked were found to be untrue. McCraw said the classroom door remained unlocked as more than a dozen law enforcement officers armed with rifles and at least one ballistic shield waited in the hallway. He said there is no evidence that law enforcement ever checked to see if the door was locked.
“The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from (entering rooms) 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” McCraw said of Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (CISD) Police Chief Pete Arredondo. “The officers have weapons, the children had none. The officers had body armor, the children had none. The officers had training, the subject had none.”
McCraw also confirmed recent reports that the adjoining classrooms can only be locked from the outside with a key.
“There’s no way to lock the door from the inside and there’s no way for the subject to lock the door from the inside,” he said.