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) — The Texas Education Agency is reviewing “every aspect” of the Uvalde school shooter’s educational history, according to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath.
Morath testified Tuesday as part of the Texas Senate’s ‘Protect All Texans’ special committee hearing. He told senators the gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, became “chronically absent” starting in the sixth grade.
The commissioner said his agency is conducting what is essentially a behavioral threat assessment in chronological order.
“What did we know in sixth grade? Seventh grade? Eighth grade? Ninth grade? 10th grade? 11th grade? 12th grade?” Morath said. “[We are reviewing] all the information, sort of lessons learned, in order to improve the ability to train school systems around the state on recognizing and intervening.”
Morath said the review process would take a few more weeks, adding he was able to speak publicly about the shooter’s school history because he is deceased.
Ramos had withdrawn from high school and was living with his grandparents at the time of the Robb Elementary School massacre following a dispute with his mother, investigators have said.
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told senators Tuesday there is evidence the shooter was also abusing animals, particularly cats.
Morath said the TEA is looking at improving the way it requires schools to assess behavioral threats.
“Imagine a team,” he told senators. “That team might include a law enforcement person on staff, a campus principal, a teacher or two, perhaps a department head, a counselor.
“That team comes together once a week to consider the state of students,” Morath continued. “They have discipline reports, they have attendance data, they have verbal communication from teachers.”
Clinical child psychologist and UT Austin associate professor Sarah Kate Bearman told KXAN it is important to keep in mind behavioral issues are not always indicators that a student may turn to violence.
“Very, very few people who have mental health problems commit any kind of violent crimes,” Bearman said. “In fact, people with severe mental illness are much more likely to be the victims of violent crime than they are to be the perpetrators.”
Cynthia Franklin, a licensed clinical social worker and UT Austin professor, told KXAN warning signs “can be very individual,” but said parents and educators should look out for extreme changes in personality, behavior, or a nosedive in academic performance.
“One of the things that really matters is relationships, making sure that every child has a caring adult around them,” Franklin said.
During Wednesday’s Senate hearing testimony, Dr. Andy Keller with Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute said the Uvalde shooter appeared to have some support.
“I would actually say there was some caregiving,” Keller said. “We have a grandma who was trying to [help], an intermittently-involved mom, an intermittently-involved grandfather. There were adults.”