Safety inspector entered Uvalde public school through broken cafeteria door while conducting an audit, superintendent says
A state inspector appointed to impersonate an "intruder" was able to gain entry to a school cafeteria in Uvalde, Texas, while conducting a mandatory safety audit, the district's interim superintendent announced this week.
Gary Patterson of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District reviewed the outcome of the audit — which is part of a larger program underway across Texas to evaluate whether public school districts have sufficiently implemented their hazard response procedures — at the latest monthly school board meeting in Uvalde on Monday, where he presented key findings included in a broader end-of-year safety and security report.
Patterson said the state inspector, affiliated with the Texas School Safety Center, was able to access the cafeteria of an unidentified public school building in the district through a door that had not been properly locked. The inspector performed the same "intruder detection audit" on three separate schools across the district, none of which were named during this week's board meeting, and only one of which was susceptible to intrusion, according to the superintendent.
At the building where the unauthorized entry happened, Patterson said the inspector had noticed that the door leading from the cafeteria loading dock into the main building had a defective latch that only closed fully when the door was slammed shut. The inspector entered the building through this door as the cafeteria accepted a delivery, according to the official, who went on to review new safety protocols established to better protect students and staff inside Uvalde public schools. Those protocols include bulletproof windows, metal detectors and hundreds of additional surveillance cameras, in addition to new and properly functioning doors.
The safety program came under an order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that called for random audits conducted through the Texas School Safety Center, working alongside the Texas Education Agency, for threat assessment purposes.
"I am charging the Texas School Safety Center in coordination with the TEA, to develop and implement a plan to conduct random inspections to assess access control measures of Texas school districts," wrote Abbott in a letter addressed to Dr. Kathy Martinez-Prather, the director of the school safety center, last June. "Among other reviews, your team should begin conducting in-person, unannounced, random intruder detection audits on school districts."
Abbott's order closely followed the tragic mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on May 24, when an 18-year-old former student, Salvador Ramos, entered the building through an unlocked side entrance door carrying an AR-15 style rifle, after initially firing shots outside of the school for roughly five minutes. Once inside, the gunman shot and killed 19 students and two teachers, and wounded another 17 people.
Over the summer, Texas lawmakers released a detailed report that outlined what officials have described as a series of missteps by law enforcement agents as well as administrators during their collective response to the shooting. Among the mistakes highlighted in their report was the fact that nearly 400 law enforcement officers, including 90 state troopers, rushed the elementary school in the wake of the massacre but waited for about one hour before confronting the gunman, who had sequestered himself inside one of the classrooms. The gunman was ultimately fatally shot by members of the U.S. Border Patrol Tactical Unit.
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