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Uvalde shooting: parents call for school police chief to be fired and ask for future safety guarantees at school board meeting

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CNN

Angry residents of the emotionally devastated Texas town of Uvalde confronted the school board Monday night with speakers calling for district police chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo to be fired and asking what security measures will be put in place for when schools reopen.

The grief of the May 24 shooting that killed 21 people at Robb Elementary clearly weighed on those in attendance and some parents said their children are not ready to return to class.

“There is a fear in my heart that is only exacerbated by the fear my children have,” said Rachel Martinez, a parent of four. “I don’t think anyone here today can deny that there was a massive failure on May 24. Where are these failures, the question is?”

Monday’s meeting of the board of directors of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District came a day after a Texas House inquiry committee released a preliminary report outlining a series of shortcomings by law enforcement agencies in their response to the shooting.

The 77-page “interim report” described “an overall sobering approach” by nearly 400 local, state and federal law enforcement officers attending the school as the second-deadliest shooting ever at a K-12 school in the United States.

The report comes at the finger point of law enforcement agencies, as well as local officials, who decry a lack of transparency and teach victims’ families piecemeal what more could have been done to save their loved ones.

Those present pointed the finger at the board on Monday evening during a meeting that lasted three hours.

Parent Brett Cross asked the board why Arredondo, who is on administrative leave, has not been fired.

“Why the hell does he still have a job with you?” he asked. “Are you going to fire him?”

District Superintendent Hal Harrell replied, “We will consider the report. It will be a closed session decision.”

Harrell said the board had been waiting for the investigative information to help it make a decision.

Several other speakers also demanded that the administration terminate Arredondo, who has said he did not consider himself the site commander, according to the report, echoing comments he made to the Texas Tribune last month.

Tina Quintanilla-Taylor introduced her daughter Mehle, who told the board she was wearing the same dress she wore to school on May 24.

“This was the last dress all my friends saw me in [sic],” she said. “Most of those kids were my friends… And I don’t want to go to your boys’ school if you don’t have any protection.”

Martinez, the parent of four children, asked the board if it would take responsibility for the May 24 failures.

“Are you going to make up for this?” she asked.

She wondered what options students and parents would have if they didn’t want to go back to school, and said her daughter had said she was “so terrified” of going back to class.

“I can assure you that my children are not mentally prepared to return to campus and that my husband and I do not want to send them. I speak for my children, but I also speak for the rest of the parents in the community who feel the same way I do.”

Jazmin Cazares, sister to the shooting incident Jackie Cazares and a high school student, said nothing could be done to bring her sister back, but the school board could make changes to prevent other families from losing children. She also wondered how safe she could feel.

‘I’m getting older. How am I supposed to get back to this school? What are you going to do to make sure I don’t have to see my friends die?” she asked. “What are you going to do to make sure I don’t have to wait 77 minutes on my classroom floor bleeding like my little sister did?”

Asked if the district would consider online learning, Harrell said it was up for debate. “We are investigating it. And there are some structures that need to be in place. But yeah, we’re looking at it and that’s one of the things we’re considering.”

The school board has also recommended postponing the start of the school year to address security concerns such as door locks.

In June, Harrell announced that no student will ever return to the scene of the massacre.

“We’re not going back to that campus,” Harrell said at a special board meeting, adding that he expects to have a new address for the school in the “very near future.”

“Our children, our staff, we are not going back.”

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