This story is part of a KXAN series of reports called “Stop Mass Shootings,” providing context and exploring solutions surrounding gun violence in the wake of the deadly Uvalde school shooting. We want our reports to be a resource for Texans, as well as for lawmakers who are convening a month after the events in Uvalde to discuss how the state should move forward. Explore all “Stop Mass Shootings” stories by clicking here.
AUSTIN (KXAN) – Uvalde CISD required teachers to keep their classroom doors closed and always locked, according to district records. But new testimony from the Texas Department of Public Safety director reveals the classroom doors inside Robb Elementary could not lock from the inside.
The doors to the classroom where an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 elementary-age students and two teachers were unlocked during the shooting, seemingly contradicting the district’s own policy which requires classroom doors to be “closed and locked at all times.”
McCraw explained the doors at Robb Elementary cannot be locked from the inside of any classroom and can only be locked from the outside.
“This is ridiculous and inexcusable if you are looking at it from a security standpoint,” said McCraw. “I can’t imagine that this is safe…there’s no way for the teacher to know if it is locked or not.”
The policy, included in Uvalde CISD’s 2020-21 “Preventative Security Measures,” instructed teachers and substitutes “to keep their classroom doors closed and locked at all times.”
“So, we are training people in a situation where they simply don’t have the equipment to protect themselves,” said Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R- Houston).
The Texas School Safety Center, a nonprofit funded by lawmakers, addressed door locks in their standard response protocol toolkit. In it, the TSSC said, “sending staff to lock outside doors exposes them to unnecessary risk.”
McCraw testified the lockdown that happened during the shooting inside Robb Elementary was “ineffective” based on the doors being unlocked.
In 2019, Texas lawmakers required school districts to create better plans for active shooter situations and allocated millions of dollars to school districts to update locks, alarms, metal detectors, and cameras.
Despite McCraw’s testimony that the doors to the classroom were unlocked and unsecured, he also told senators Tuesday that none of the officers inside the school during the shooting attempted to see if the door was unlocked. Officers were inside the school for more than 70 minutes before the door was breached and the shooter was killed.
“The door was unsecured and we’ve gone back and checked in our interviews. Did anybody touch the door and try it? “No one had,” said McCraw.
It is unclear how many other school districts within Texas have similar lock mechanisms within their school buildings. KXAN has asked every school district in the Austin area and will update this story as districts respond.
What other school districts say about their locks:
- Austin ISD: “[The locksmith] said classroom doors should be able to be locked from the inside. [The locksmith] estimates that AISD has an estimated 44,000 doors and we repair doors upon work order request. Exterior doors should always be locked. We plan to rekey doors when the next bond passes.”
- Eanes ISD: “Yes, we have mechanisms for classroom doors to lock from the inside.”
- Georgetown ISD: “I’m happy to report that all classroom doors in Georgetown ISD are able to be locked from inside the classroom. We have additional security features built in such as: secured single points of entry, electronic door access, lockdown ability at the push of a button- securing exterior entrances, lock gates that can be activated to secure an area of the school.”
- Hays CISD: “We have 26 campuses in Hays CISD that were built at various times through the years. I believe some of our older campuses may have locks that require a key from the outside to set it to lock rather than with a lock knob on the inside of the classroom. All of the doors, for fire code, are not locked for people who are on the inside in case they have to exit. Our current procedure is to have all classroom doors locked from the outside; but, it is a continuing process to monitor and try to make sure that happens at every door on every day.”
- Leander ISD: “[W]e are conducting door audits and will meet the required deadline for reporting to the state. This is as much information as we are able to give you at this time,” citing Texas Education Agency and Texas School Safety Center guidance on disclosure.
We are waiting to hear from Bastrop ISD, Blanco ISD, Del Valle ISD, Dripping Springs ISD, Fredericksburg ISD, Hutto ISD, Lago Vista ISD, Lake Travis ISD, Llano ISD, Manor ISD, New Braunfels ISD, Pflugerville ISD, Round Rock ISD, and San Marcos ISD.