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Experts say these could be the most effective steps to curbing violence, shootings in schools

Many school districts are reviewing school safety measures after the Uvalde school shooting Tuesday.

UVALDE, Texas — The deadly Uvalde school shooting has left many wondering how school safety and security plans can be improved to better protect students and teachers. 

Uvalde CISD has a 21-point preventative security measure plan on its school district police department's website, calling it a strategy to address violence and curb threats. We are still learning more about what safety measures were in place at Robb Elementary, but here is what the security plan lays out:

  • Every campus has a threat assessment team to identify, evaluate, classify and address threats to school security.
  • The district monitors social media to identify possible threats.
  • There is a locked classroom door policy where teachers are instructed to keep their doors closed and locked at all times.
  • There are staff and student trainings for lockdowns and evacuations.

Those lockdown trainings are mandatory for all Texas schools twice a year.

“Lockdown covers a variety of active threats, including an active shooter situation,” said Kathy Martinez-Prather, the director of the Texas School Safety Center. “So we really focus on the protocols that are involved with those drills, which is when you go into lockdown – doors locked, lights out, shut the door –and so those action protocols are very effective in these types of situations.”

  • The plan states that Robb Elementary has a perimeter fence to limit or restrict access to the campus.
  • Yet the plan also shows the high school and junior high campuses have security cameras, but none are listed for Robb Elementary.
  • It states there the high school has a security vestibule and outside door buzz-in system. Anthon elementary school also has a security vestibule, but none of those security measures are listed for Robb Elementary.

Yet school safety experts said schools have made meaningful changes to security in the last 20 years since the Columbine school shooting.

“The good news is that school and safety officials are much more prepared and much better trained, and have been very effective in preventing incidents much more so than 10 or 20 years ago,” said Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services. “The bad news is incidents still slip through the cracks and we want to tighten up those opportunities for those incidents to slide through.”

He said security cameras or metal detectors can help with safety at schools, but the best way to stop school violence is to train students, parents, the community, teachers and staff to report anything unusual.

“From the school custodian and bus driver to the front office, support staff and food service workers, as teachers and administrators safety is everybody’s job,” Trump said. “Making sure those side doors are not left propped open or are unlocked, making sure that you greet and challenge the stranger in the hallway, that you recognize when kids that you know somethings off that day and you need to pull them aside and talk to them. That’s what makes schools safer.”

Martinez-Prather also said it's important to identify warning signs early so threats do not become tragedies.

“We need to educate our parents, our students, our staff, all of our educators, our community to be able to speak up and not think for a second that this isn’t something too big of a deal or someone else is going report it,” she said. “We know there’s a common theme through a lot of these situations that somebody knew something, there was a concerning behavior. Somebody wanted to say something but didn’t, wished they had, or felt someone else was going to say something.”

The Texas School Safety Center offers many school safety resources and training for districts for free. It recently created an  Active Threat Toolkit with guidance on how to put together an active threat plan.

Texas school districts are required to review school safety plans every three years, according to the Texas School Safety Center. Plus, districts must submit those plans to the center to be reviewed. 

The center would not comment on Robb Elementary’ s specific safety measures. 

Until the law enforcement investigation is complete, we will not know how the shooter gained access into the school.

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