Two months after the May 24 shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 students and two teachers dead, parents are still frustrated and looking for answers, and the elementary school’s principal has been placed on leave.
At Monday night’s school board meeting, it was announced that new security measures — including bulletproof glass and additional officers — would be put in place when the delayed school year begins in September. Families of the Uvalde victims walked out of the meeting, frustrated with what they say is a lack of accountability for the massacre that included a botched response from law enforcement at the scene and false information released by officials in the days that followed.
In addition, the school board formally urged Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session of the Legislature, in order to pass a law raising the age requirement to purchase an assault rifle from 18 to 21. The shooter at Robb Elementary purchased the assault rifle used in his attack days after he turned 18.
The board has also suspended Robb Elementary School principal Mandy Gutierrez with pay, according to her lawyer, although the reasons behind that decision have not been released. A report from the state Legislature released last week found that Gutierrez was among those at the school who knew that the lock on the classroom door was not working properly but did not place an order to have it fixed, stating that she “confirmed that school administration knew about the issues with that door, stating that it was reported around spring break of 2022.”
The report found that school personnel didn’t always respond to alerts with a sense of urgency because the vast majority of alerts were issued by police during pursuits of vehicles with undocumented immigrants on highways near the school. Reports of so-called bailouts — incidents in which officers chase a vehicle containing suspected undocumented migrants who then purposely crash and scatter to avoid apprehension — were frequent. Since late February, there had been 47 “secure” or “lockdown” events at Uvalde schools, according to the report; about 90% of them were attributed to bailouts.
The employment of the school district police chief, Pete Arredondo, is another continuing issue for the board that has angered members of the community. Arredondo has yet to be terminated or to resign from the position after state officials said he was the on-site commander as officers stood outside the classroom where students called 911 on the day of the attack. Arredondo told the Texas Tribune in June that he didn’t consider himself in charge of the scene, and the state Legislature report said that no one from state or federal law enforcement asked to take control of the situation.
“In this crisis, no responder seized the initiative to establish an incident command post,” said the report, which added, “Despite an obvious atmosphere of chaos, the ranking officers of other responding agencies did not approach the Uvalde [school district] chief of police or anyone else perceived to be in command to point out the lack of and need for a command post, or to offer that specific assistance.”
However, an analysis of the body camera footage by CNN released Monday found that Arredondo was at the center of the action, giving orders. The school board president had recommended that Arredondo be fired and the matter had been set to be discussed on Saturday, but the meeting was canceled at the request of Arredondo’s lawyer. Arredondo was also moved from paid leave to unpaid leave.
“In conformity with due process requirements, and at the request of his attorney, the meeting to consider the termination of Chief Arredondo will be held at a later date which has yet to be determined,” said a Friday press release from the district.
Parents who attended a July 17 press conference by three of the state Legislature report’s authors expressed anger and frustration, calling for discipline against the officers and saying they didn’t learn anything new from the report.
“It’s a joke. They’re a joke. They’ve got no business wearing a badge. None of them do,” Vincent Salazar, grandfather of one of the victims, told the Associated Press.
“They should be charged for not going in and for letting that happen to our kids,” Evadulia Orta, whose son was killed, told the Texas Tribune.
Earlier this month, Arredondo resigned from his position on the Uvalde City Council, a seat he was elected to prior to the shooting. He had secretly taken the oath of office in June, but had not attended any meetings and has been on administrative leave from his position overseeing the school district’s police force since late June.