The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District has a 21-point security plan that ordered school doors locked at all times and required students to practice lockdown drills "on a regular basis," in the event of a mass shooting, reporter Insider.
But during the school shooting on May 24 that left 19 children and 2 teachers dead, many of the measures and procedures designed to prevent bloodshed may have hampered police's response as officers took over an hour to confront the shooter while students inside the classrooms begged for help.
Interviews given by the school's embattled police chief and a teacher who survived the massacre reveal how the precautions against mass shootings were turned against police.
Locked doors kept police from entering the classroom where the shooter was barricaded
The gunman entered classrooms 111 and 112 and opened fire at about 11:33 a.m. He locked the doors to the adjoining rooms, leaving himself inside — alongside his victims — for over an hour before police eventually entered and shot him dead.
School district police chief Pete Arredondo — who has faced criticism amid accusations he delayed the tactical response to the shooting — told the Texas Tribune in an interview published on Thursday that UCISD officers don't carry master keys to school classrooms.
He said officers had to wait for school staff to provide multiple rings of keys to try to open the door.
"I was praying one of them was going to open up the door each time I tried a key," Arredondo told the Tribune.
It took more than an hour for Arredondo to receive a key that finally opened the door, the Tribune reported.
As they were waiting for keys for approximately 78 minutes, Arredondo said officers on the scene worked to evacuate over 500 other students and teachers from the building to lead them to safety.
"It's not that someone said stand down," Arredondo's lawyer, George E. Hyde, told the Tribune. "It was 'Right now, we can't get in until we get the tools. So we're going to do what we can do to save lives.' And what was that? It was to evacuate the students and the parents and the teachers out of the rooms."
Reinforced classroom doors made it impossible for police officers to break in without a key
Aside from locks, reinforcements on the doors also prevented police from getting through to the classrooms.
Arredondo told the Tribune that classroom doors at Robb Elementary are "reinforced with a hefty steel jamb, designed to keep an attacker on the outside from forcing their way in."
But that same measure made it impossible for Arredondo and other officers who entered the school to kick in the door and enter without a key, he said.
Additionally, experts told the Tribune that breaking through windows to get into the classroom would have caused more casualties.
Turned-off lights kept cops from seeing into the classrooms
The Standard Response Protocol, a shooting safety guide used by the Uvalde school district, recommends teachers and students turn off classroom lights to prevent a shooter from seeing students and teachers hiding inside.
The Tribune reported that the lights were off in classrooms during the Robb Elementary shooting.
Arredondo told the Tribune that because the lights were off, cops had little visibility inside the classrooms, making it difficult to pinpoint the shooter's exact location.
It also made it more difficult to assess whether the teachers and students inside were alive, the Tribune reported.
One Robb Elementary teacher said active shooting training set his students up 'like ducks' for the shooter
Robb Elementary teacher Arnulfo Reyes, whose 11 fourth-grade students were all killed in the May 24 shooting, told "Good Morning America" that active shooting training protocol set the children up "like ducks" during the shooting.
Reyes said his students were watching a movie in class following an end-of-year celebration when they heard gunshots.
He told "Good Morning America" that he told the students to hide under a table and pretend to be asleep. The gunman then came into the classroom and opened fire, shooting Reyes twice and killing the students.
"We trained our kids to sit under the table, and that's what I thought at the time. But we set them up to be like ducks," he said, adding that he "tried his best" and tearfully apologized to the families of his students.
Gov. Abbott wants more active shooter training in schools
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has called to deploy "nationally recognized active shooter training to all Texas school districts, prioritizing school-based law enforcement," in the weeks since the shooting. He said training on these protocols should begin before the 2022-2023 school year.
Abbott said that more training "will help law enforcement on school campuses better respond to these situations."
But the governor's office did not respond to multiple requests for comment asking if the training would be updated since police and Reyes have said the training contributed to making the shooting worse.
Reyes told "Good Morning America" that he believes training won't help.
"It all happened too fast. Training, no training, all kinds of training — nothing gets you ready for this," Reyes told "Good Morning America" in an interview that aired Tuesday. "You can give us all the training you want, but laws have to change."
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