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Uvalde school principal disputes findings on shooting that left 21 dead

Mandy Gutierrez rejected a legislative committee’s finding that a “culture of complacency” over safety at Robb Elementary School allowed a gunman to enter the building and kill 19 children and two teachers.
News: President Biden visits Uvalde
Robb Elementary School principal Mandy Gutierrez is hugged after meeting with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden in Uvalde, Texas, on May 29, 2022.Jack Gruber / USA Today Network
/ Source: Associated Press

The principal of the Texas school where the nation’s deadliest classroom shooting in a decade happened on Wednesday disputed some key findings of a legislative report on the attack, including that doors were left unlocked and there was lax enforcement of rules.

In a statement issued by her attorney, Mandy Gutierrez rejected a legislative committee’s finding that a “culture of complacency” over safety at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde allowed a gunman to enter the school and kill 19 children and two teachers. She also said the lock on the door to the fourth-grade classroom where the May 24 shooting happened worked when a custodian checked it the night before.

School Superintendent Hal Harrell suspended Gutierrez with pay on Monday pending a performance review pertaining to school security. Gutierrez's attorney, Ricardo G. Cedillo, said Thursday night that her leave had been lifted and she was reinstated to her position.

The legislative report placed the most fault with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, which took more than an hour to enter the classroom where the shooter was and kill him as parents outside the school begged officers to do something and dispatchers took 911 calls from inside the school. Surveillance footage of police officers in body armor milling in the hallway while the gunman carried out the massacre led to rage from families of victims, who have demanded accountability.

In the statement addressed to the three members of the Texas House committee that issued the report after its investigation, Gutierrez also said the teacher in charge of the classroom where the shooting happened complained that because the school’s only printer was in his classroom, other teachers often interrupted his teaching to unlock the door so they could retrieve their printed documents.

As for reports that the door had to be closed forcefully to engage the locked latch, Gutierrez said: “This is the condition of many doors in an aged building.” She also said that neither she nor her predecessors had any recollection that the classroom teacher had complained that the door would not lock.

Gutierrez disputed that spotty school Wi-Fi prevented school personnel from receiving an alert to a security breach.

Finally, she rejected the finding that complacency had set in because of frequent lockdowns prompted by nearby law enforcement pursuits of migrants trying to flee.

“We were trained to treat every alert from any law enforcement agency as a situation with a high potential to escalate into a dangerous episode for students, teachers and administrators,” she said in the statement issued by attorney Ricardo Cedillo of San Antonio.

Gutierrez said her most recent performance review rated her as “Accomplished” in creating “a safe school environment that ensures the social, emotional and physical well-being of staff and students.”

“I will live with the horror of these events for the rest of my life,” she concluded. “I want to keep my job not only so I can provide for my family but so that I can continue to be on the front lines helping the children who survived, the families of all affected and the entire Uvalde community that I love and want to continue to protect.”