Elementary school principal Robb defends his actions



CNN

Robb Elementary principal Mandy Gutierrez defended herself on Wednesday against criticism over her handling of school security before the massacre that left 19 children and two teachers dead.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Gutierrez was asked if she agreed with a legislative report that cited a “culture of non-compliance with safety policies” at the school.

“Absolutely not,” Gutierrez replied.

“Every time an alert was raised, every teacher on this campus took it to mean that it could be a potential escalation situation,” she said.

Gutierrez said she immediately initiated a lockdown with an app called Raptor after hearing a gunman had jumped a school fence.

“I feel like I did the training I was given to the best of my abilities,” she said when asked if she thought she should lose her job. “And I will guess myself for the rest of my life.”

Last month, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Col. Steven McCraw called the police response an “abject failure”. He placed sole blame for the failure to engage the shooter on school district police chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, whom officials identified as the on-scene commander.

Arredondo, who is on unpaid administrative leave, has previously said he does not consider himself the incident commander that day.

Asked about the delay of law enforcement in confronting the shooter, Gutierrez said she was frustrated but unable to find fault.

“I’m not law enforcement and I can’t pass judgment and tell them how to do their job, just like I wouldn’t ask them to tell me how to do mine,” she said. “I don’t feel able to blame anyone.”

Gutierrez added, “I would blame things that are out of my circle of control, which is I can’t make the laws. So I can’t, I can’t decide how old you have to be to buy a gun. I can’t decide how many cartridges someone can buy. I cannot determine the level of security we have on campus.

The principal said she prayed during the shootings and subsequent siege.

“I wanted everyone to come out safe,” she said. “I didn’t want to leave until I was reassured that all of my staff and students were out and safe. Until this very last moment, I always felt that my staff and my students were all safe.

Gutierrez has been placed on administrative leave with pay, according to her attorney, Ricardo Cedillo.

The school board did not comment on his leave at a meeting on Monday. Gutierrez, who started as a fourth-grade teacher in 2008, has worked for Uvalde CISD for more than two decades.

In a letter to members of the House committee that investigated the shooting, Gutierrez challenged many of their findings. She said the door to room 111 – one of two classrooms where the victims were killed – was checked by custodial staff every night, including the night before the shooting. She also wrote that she did not recall the teacher in that room complaining about the door not closing, according to the letter, which was released by her attorney on Wednesday.

“What I know for sure is that the door to room 111 actually locked,” she said during the interview. “And the reason I know that is because we do regular campus tours and I used my master key myself to unlock that door.”

Arnulfo Reyes, who taught in Room 111, told CNN that Gutierrez’s claims in his letter regarding the door’s locking mechanism aren’t entirely accurate. He said he did not complain about the door being locked, but rather about the door being jammed or jammed throughout the day.

Reyes said he had complained about the door jamming several times in three years. Reyes said the door was locked during the day and was normally locked when he arrived at school. When asked if he remembered the door being locked the day of the shooting, Reyes said he didn’t.

Gutierrez in his letter acknowledged issues with spotty Wi-Fi at Robb. She wrote that she did not use the public address system on the day of the shooting because her training was that using it could “create panic”. She denied there was a ‘culture of complacency’ at school and said it was ‘unfair and inaccurate’ to conclude that she was complacent about safety.

Gutierrez said in the letter that she “will live with the horror of these events for the rest of my life” and that she wants to keep her job “to be on the front lines helping the children who survived, the families of all those affected and the whole community of Uvalde.

State Representative Dustin Burrows, the chairman of the committee, said in a statement that he had not received Gutierrez’s letter.

“The committee relied on interview testimony from several CISD Uvalde employees (including staff and administration) and the CISD Uvalde Police Department to reach its conclusions regarding practices that have took place at Robb Elementary School,” Burrows said.

A spokesperson for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, citing a high volume of media inquiries, asked for at least two days to respond.

Gutierrez’s furlough came as officials at Uvalde sought to reassure frustrated parents about the safety of their children when classes resume.

The Uvalde massacre was the deadliest school shooting in the United States since 2012.

The legislative committee’s report on the May 24 school shooting cited Robb Elementary’s “culture of non-compliance with security policies,” including its failure to adequately prepare for the risk of an armed intruder, and the practice common practice to leave the doors unlocked.

The report states that Gutierrez and school administrators knew that a lock on one of the classrooms where the murders took place was malfunctioning and failed to fix it.

On the day of the shooting, Gutierrez was in his office after an awards ceremony and attempted to initiate a lock on the Raptor app but “had trouble raising the alert due to poor wireless signal. -fi,” according to the legislative report. She also did not attempt to “communicate the lockdown alert via the school intercom”, the report said.

According to the legislative report, school staff “frequently held the doors open and deliberately bypassed the locks.” This behavior was “tacitly condoned” by school administrators and district police – and not treated as “serious offences”.

Locking the doors as needed could have slowed “the shooter’s progress for a few precious minutes – long enough to receive alerts, hide children and lock the doors; and long enough to give police more opportunity to engage and arrest the attacker before he can slaughter 19 students and two teachers,” the Texas House report said.

Lawmakers also blamed the police response and the failure of school officials and others to heed numerous warning signs about the shooter. Their report says state and federal agents at the scene were also guilty of the delay in confronting the shooter.

Uvalde school officials on Monday revealed efforts to improve security when classes resume early next month. Plans include installing bulletproof windows and metal detectors, hiring 10 additional police officers and identifying an entry point for each school. Five officers were employed by the district at the time of the shooting, according to the legislative report.

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