Open doors were the “first line of defense” at Uvald School | US News®

By Heather Hollingsworth, Associated Press

Experts on Tuesday testified that the Yuvaldi massacre began after the 18-year-old gunman entered the school through a door that could only be closed from the outside and then entered a classroom with a broken lock.

Experts said that securing doors has long been the focus of school safety training, and that the inability to do so during the May 24 attack that left 19 children and two teachers contravenes best practice.

“Your first step, your first line of defense is now wiped out, and it’s really taken away from you,” Ken Trump, the head of security and safety services at the National School, said when the doors aren’t secure.

Questions about how the shooter got into Robb Elementary School and what happened at multiple doors were a large part of the changing information about the attack.

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What happened when the man reached the outside door?

State police initially said the gunman entered the school through an outside door opened by a teacher.

Days later, the state police retracted those statements to explain that the teacher had closed the door. But somehow it is not locked.

After nearly a month of rampage, Colonel Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, modified what his agency’s investigation shows: The teacher had locked the door, but without her knowledge, it could only be locked from the outside.

McCraw said Tuesday, in scathing testimony at a Senate hearing in Austin, that the gunman “walked straight.”

Ronald Stevens, executive director of the National Center for School Safety, said he was “surprised” that the outside door could only be closed from the outside.

“I’m trying to think if I’ve seen it before. It’s very rare that this is the case. Why not have a chance to lock it from the inside?”

He likened it to a house that could only be closed from the outside.

“Shouldn’t the security of the school be as safe as the security of your home? Being able to only close from the outside is completely unacceptable in my view,” he asked.

During the session, the experts did not explain why the school’s exterior door was locked from the outside. Robb Elementary is an old building that was built in 1955.

What happened when the man reached the classroom door?

Once at the school, the shooter entered a classroom with a door that could not be locked from the inside by design, according to McCraw, who also said a teacher reported before the shooting that the lock had broken.

Stephens and Trump said the fact that it didn’t work was a maintenance issue.

“This is about how you manage and maintain school property responsibly,” Stephens said.

McCroe also revealed on Tuesday that despite the fact that the door was open, there is no indication that officers tried to open it during the standoff. Instead, he said, the police waited for a key.

Stephens said the way the situation was played spoke to the broader need for a crisis plan.

“For me, there’s a whole series of apparent failures that have occurred in this particular situation,” he said. “It’s a wake-up call to everyone across America.”

Were there problems before?

At Sandy Hook Elementary School, the two classroom doors where all 20 children were killed in the 2012 massacre, along with their teachers, couldn’t be locked from the hallway with a key.

Families of some of the victims said lives could have been saved if teachers had been able to lock the classroom doors from the inside, and wondered if the two teachers killed in the shooting, Victoria Soto and Lauren Russo, had gained access to the keys.

Another teacher who could not lock the classroom door told investigators that she looked down the hallways and saw a doorman who yelled for the gunman to leave and signaled to the doorman to lock her door.

Sandy Hook Elementary School was also built in 1955.

What are the recommended steps?

State and federal committees tasked with reviewing individual mass shootings have repeatedly advised schools to limit access by closing exterior doors, as well as force visitors to enter through a secure door and require teachers to close classrooms while classes are in place.

Teachers and students research how to respond.

“Shut the door, turn off the light. Keep the children and staff in a difficult corner, which means they are not in the direct line of sight of the window where anyone can shoot through and remain calm.”

He said these measures could save lives “absolutely”.

External doors, he said, “keep the threat out of the building. The next layer inside is the closed doors to your classrooms, officers, and work areas. All these layers are meant to buy time.”

He said that the adrenaline of the shooters is high knowing that – in most cases – their time is limited.

“They won’t spend a lot of time trying to get into a locked door where they may or may not know if someone is inside, and whether the kids are quiet and out of sight. They will keep moving to where they have an easy target.”

Find out more AP coverage of the Uvalde school shooting:

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