School officials react to Uvalde shooting

·3 min read

May 25—Educators and parents expressed alarm after the mass shooting at a southwest Texas school and the trend of school shootings in recent years.

An 18-year-old gunned down 19 fourth-graders and two teachers behind a barricaded door at Robb Elementary School in the southwestern Texas town of Uvalde on Tuesday. The second deadliest school shooting left school administrators in southeast Oklahoma in shock and wondering how to ensure something similar doesn't happen at their districts.

"Every time that happens your mind goes to 'what are we doing to try to prevent it from happening here?'" Hartshorne Public Schools Superintendent Jason Lindley said.

"It's hard, it's disheartening and it makes me really prayerful that I am where I am and we do what we do," McAlester Public Schools Superintendent Randy Hughes said.

Analysis by the Washington Post shows at least 185 children, educators and other people have been killed in assaults, and another 369 have been injured in school shootings.

The Post analysis states school shootings remain rare, but the 42 that occurred in 2021 were the most since at least 1999. At least 24 acts of gun violence happened on K-12 campuses during the school day this year as of Wednesday.

A gunman killed 20 children, six adults and himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.

A teenager shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018. An armed school resource officer remained outside the building during the attack and the suspect initially evaded four police officers and two sheriff's deputies before being arrested at a local restaurant 30 minutes later.

The school shooting in Parkland, Florida motivated school board members at Pittsburg Public Schools to approve a policy allowing teachers to carry handguns.

Hartshorne schools also use a mixture of security guards, school resource officer, and armed teachers, Lindley said.

Lindley said his district installed protective glass, security locks, and limits access to its campuses.

"We're always looking for ways to make our facilities more secure," Lindley said.

Hughes said all exterior doors in the McAlester school district remain locked and only accessible via school-issued badges.

The district added vestibules at each campus entrance so nobody can walk directly into a building without approval.

McAlester schools added multiple cameras across campuses and the district has two campus security officers.

Hughes said the district also added 10 security officers or law enforcement personnel at the high school graduation last weekend.

"We just have to be mindful every day because you can't take anything for granted," Hughes said.

McAlester schools also conduct active shooter drills to help prepare students and staff to follow procedures if the situation arises.

An instructor focuses on the acronym A.L.I.C.E. — which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate — during the drills teaching students and staff survival techniques and escape routes to rally points.

Hughes said an alleged shooting threat in 2019 raised alarm and expedited the process of improving security districtwide.

He said that incident and shootings across the nation since then led officials to increase security officers at school events, but they plan to continue working to improve security.

"We feel like we are safe and we are secure," Hughes said. "But this really opens your eyes...it really awakened me and it makes us more diligent."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Adrian O'Hanlon III at aohanlon@mcalesternews.com