Texas school principal placed on leave after mass shooting | #schoolshooting

Mandy Gutierrez, the principal of Robb Elementary School, has been suspended with pay in connection with the May 24 mass shooting in Uvalde.

“I can confirm that Ms. Gutierrez was placed on Administrative Leave With Pay on Monday, July 25, 2022 by Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Hal Harrell,” Gutierrez’s lawyer, Ricardo Cedillo, said by email.

Cedillo said Gutierrez will respond to questions posed by the superintendent by the end of the week.

A special Texas House committee investigating the school shooting found that Gutierrez was aware of security problems prior to the massacre but failed to address them.

A gunman entered the unlocked school and killed 19 students and two teachers and injured 16 others there — after he shot his grandmother in the face at her Uvalde home.

Gutierrez was completing her first year as Robb Elementary principal when the shooting occurred. She has worked for Uvalde CISD for more than two decades, starting as a fourth-grade teacher at Robb. In 2018, she became assistant principal, and she was promoted to principal in 2021.

The House committee’s July 17 report found that the school had relaxed vigilance because of the frequency of security alerts and campus lockdowns resulting from a rise of “bailouts”— when human traffickers trying to outrun police crash their vehicles so their passengers can flee on foot.

More on the Robb Elementary school shooting

Lax school security

About 11:30 a.m. the day of the attack, a coach who was in the schoolyard saw the gunman jump a perimeter fence and begin shooting at the building. She frantically reported the attack to the school office. But the coach told the committee the administration didn’t appear to issue a lockdown notice right away, and the gunman made it into the school building.

And although the school had adopted security policies — including locking exterior doors and classroom doors — the report said “there was a regrettable culture of noncompliance by school personnel who frequently propped doors open and deliberately circumvented locks.

“At a minimum, school administrators and school district police tacitly condoned this behavior as they were aware of these unsafe practices and did not treat them as serious infractions requiring immediate correction,” the report said. “In fact, the school actually suggested circumventing the locks as a solution for the convenience of substitute teachers and others who lacked their own keys.”

If school personnel had followed the locked-door policy, the report said, “that could have slowed (the shooter’s) progress for a few precious minutes — long enough to receive alerts, hide children, and lock doors; and long enough to give police more opportunity to engage and stop the attacker.”

Many Robb Elementary staff members and students knew the door to Room 111 — one of the two classrooms in which gunman Salvador Ramos, 18, of Uvalde, carried out the mass shooting — was easily accessible. Room 111 could be locked, but an extra effort was required to make sure the latch engaged.

The teacher in Room 111 had reported the problem with the door to school administrators multiple times, the report said. Gutierrez, in her testimony to the committee, confirmed that school administrators knew about the door’s faulty latch, stating that it had been reported around this year’s spring break.

However, Robb Elementary’s head custodian testified that he’d never heard about any problems with the doors for Rooms 111 or 112. The school’s maintenance records showed no written work order to repair either door during the 2021-22 school year, according to the report.

guillermo.contreras@express-news.net | Twitter: @gmaninfedland

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