United states

Uvalde shooting: Parents call for school police chief to be fired, seek assurances of future safety at school board meeting

The grief of the May 24 shooting that killed 21 people at Robb Elementary School clearly weighed heavily on those in attendance, and some parents said their children were not ready to return to class.

“There’s a worry in my heart that’s only made worse by the fear that my kids are feeling,” said Rachel Martinez, a parent of four. “I don’t think any person here today can deny that there was a huge failure on May 24. The question is, where are these failures?’

Monday’s Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District board meeting came one day after a Texas House investigative committee released a preliminary report outlining a series of law enforcement lapses in their response to the shooting.

The 77-page “interim report” describes the “total lackadaisical approach” by nearly 400 local, state and federal law enforcement officers who went to the school when the second-deadliest K-12 school shooting in the United States occurred.

The report comes after finger-pointing from law enforcement and local officials who decried a lack of transparency and victims’ families learning piece by piece what more could have been done to save their loved ones.

Monday night’s attendees pointed fingers at the board at a meeting that lasted three hours.

Parent Brett Cross asked the board why Arredondo, who is on administrative leave, was not fired.

“Why the hell does he still have a job with you?” he asked. “Are you going to fire him?”

District Superintendent Hal Harrell responded, “We will take the report into consideration. It will be a decision in closed session.”

Harrell said the board was waiting for information from the investigation to help it make a decision.

Several other speakers also urged the board to terminate Arredondo, who said he did not consider himself the incident commander at the scene, according to the report, echoing comments he made to the Texas Tribune last month.

A young student says she wants to feel protected before she returns

Tina Quintanilla-Taylor introduced her daughter Mehle, who told the board she was wearing the same dress she wore to school on May 24.

“That was the last dress all my friends saw me in [sic]” she said. “Most of these kids were my friends … And I don’t want to go to your boys’ school if you don’t have protection.”

Martinez, the parent of four, asked the board if it would take responsibility for the May 24 failures.

“Are you going to fix this?” she asked.

She wondered what options students and parents would have if they didn’t want to return to school, saying her daughter said she was “so terrified” to return to class.

“I can assure you that my children are not mentally prepared to return to campus and my husband and I are unwilling to send them. I speak for my children, but I also speak for other parents in the community who feel the same way I do.”

Jazmin Cazares, the sister of shooting victim Jackie Cazares and a student at the high school, said nothing can be done to bring her sister back, but the school board can make changes to prevent other families from losing children. She also asked how safe she could feel.

“I’m going to be a senior. How do I get back to this school? What are you going to do to make sure I don’t have to watch my friends die,” she asked. “What are you going to do to make sure I don’t have to wait 77 minutes bleeding on my classroom floor just like my little sister did?”

The next school year may be delayed

Asked if the district would consider online learning, Harrell said it was under discussion. “We are looking into it. And there are some structures that need to be put in place. But yes, we’re looking at it and that’s one of the things we’re considering.”

The school board also recommended delaying the start of the school year to address security issues such as door locks.

In June, Harrell announced that no students would return to the site of the massacre.

“We are not going back to this campus,” Harrell said during a special board meeting, adding that he expects to have a new address for the school in the “very near future.”

“Our kids, our staff, we’re not coming back.”