Texas shooting prompts school safety discussion

Local school and law enforcement officials have raised safety concerns following a mass shooting on May 24 that resulted in 19 young students and two teachers killed and 17 others wounded at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Coverage of the incident has brought into question the response of Uvalde law enforcement as they reportedly waited outside the school for 78 minutes before entering to engage the shooter.

Multiple school superintendents and police officials in Monroe County said there are currently no apparent threats to local schools, but security measures and response protocols will be considered before the new school year.

Waterloo Superintendent of Schools Brian Charron said the incident is “another reminder of the importance of keeping our buildings secure.” 

He spoke about the role of school secretaries in keeping watch as well as the need for basic security measures.

“There’s no specific concerns that we have to believe we’re at an elevated risk for something like that happening here,” Charron said. “But there’s no way to guarantee our safety, and it is cause for us to review all of our safety protocols this summer before we return to school.”

Charron added that the Regional Office of Education is currently planning a meeting with law enforcement and school officials to discuss intruder safety plans and other emergency responses.

Columbia Superintendent of Schools Chris Grode said the main lesson from the Texas school shooting is vigilance, and emphasized the importance of student safety for schools.

“I mean, it’s right up there with education,” Grode said. “You know, we want to provide a great education, but we also want to provide their safety. So whenever these happen we also spend a lot of time looking at the situation, what happened, how did it happen, and what lessons can we learn from it.”

Valmeyer Superintendent of Schools Eric Frankford said Valmeyer school security would similarly be reviewed. He added, “Anytime you can learn from something like this, you take advantage of it.”

While school officials intend to review their safety measures, they also described their current security positively. Both Charron and Grode discussed basic security measures like keeping doors locked, and Grode cited his school’s strong communication with Columbia police.

Local law enforcement officials similarly described the precautions their departments take in a positive light.

Police chiefs Jason Donjon of Columbia and Marty Seitz of Valmeyer both discussed the emphasis that’s placed on response training within their departments and schools. 

Seitz also described the Valmeyer school as “100 percent secure.”

“So, from the time the kiddos go to school in the morning ‘til they are released in the afternoon and even once they’re gone, that school is secure. Every door is by either a code or a lock,” Seitz said.

Donjon critiqued the police response in Uvalde, saying that if what he’s heard about officers waiting outside is accurate, he thinks that’s “horrible and should never happen.”

“Every one of our officers knows that you do not wait,” Donjon said. “You go as fast as your wheels will get there, as fast as your legs will get you in there, and you take care of the threat.”

Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing echoed Donjon’s sentiment, saying the amount of information surrounding the Texas shooting has been difficult to decipher but the behavior seen by police at the incident does not reflect current training.

“We’ve been training for, like I said, seven or eight years now with active shooter training,” Rohlfing said. “And anyone that does active shooter training knows that if you’re the first responding car, you can’t wait for two or three extra law enforcement officers.”

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Andrew Unverferth

HTC web