School shootings are unlike most other incidents that can bring about PTSD. Inside the school is where a child is supposed to feel incredibly safe. The worries and concerns of outside life are cast away as they focus on learning. Elementary students, especially, tend to have even harsher reactions when they survive such a thing, and it makes complete sense.
When people like Tina Quintanilla-Taylor and her 9-year-old daughter Mehle drive past the new school where she’ll be attending, the last thing this child should be thinking about is how safe it is from threats. Yet, that’s exactly where her young mind went. While the former building is permanently closed, it doesn’t ease her mind. This new building looks clean and welcoming, but to Mehle, the fence is “skinny” and easily climbed. She told her mother “I don’t feel safe.”
Students in Uvalde have the option of going to school remotely, and many parents are exercising that option. Others still are looking at private schools. Sacred Heart Catholic Church offers education from kindergarten to sixth grade. This year at their August 15th start date, they already had double the students from last year.
Parents have been consistently showing up to school board meetings to demand further answers and accountability from school and public officials. They want to know why the police failed their children that badly. Why did they hold parents back from trying to save their kids? What they are going to do to ensure this doesn’t happen again? From the sounds of it, little Mehle isn’t ready to accept their new changes as a success.
A legislative committee was convened to investigate the attack. During their investigation, they found serious deficiencies in the school’s readiness for a mass shooting. With internal and external doors that were left unlocked in defiance of school protocol and an insufficient 5-foot fence that was easy for the gunman to scale over, the school failed the students big time.
The committee also made note of the glaring errors in judgment from the police in their policies and decision-making when it counted most. Their idea of giving him over an hour in the school before they even attempted to intervene was a costly one. Investigators for the Texas Department of Public Safety indicated the chief of the school district police force, Pete Arredondo was a complete failure at his job. He failed to follow standard law enforcement training that could have easily ended the conflict sooner and likely saved numerous lives.
With a hearing scheduled for August 24th, it looks likely that Arredondo will be terminated from his position. While he has been on unpaid leave since July, parents and community members have been outraged at the length of time it has taken to terminate him and to name a successor. Likely, it will be someone from an outside agency, and with more experience in such situations.
The district has also delayed its start date to September 6th to ensure students felt as safe as possible with the changes they have made. With a new 8-foot fence being installed, they have also added security cameras, replaced door locks, and increased the staffing of police officers on site. Governor Gregg Abbott has also assigned 30 new state troopers to provide security.
In a video message from the superintendent, Hal Harris outlined the new safety measures for the students. “We are making progress. These are components that will be installed throughout the district, not just in one campus or two campuses.”
Parents, meanwhile, contend that the progress has been incredibly slow, and they worry it won’t be completed before the first day of classes begins. If it’s not, who can blame them for keeping their kids home?