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Uvalde shooting: Robb Elementary School director Mandy Gutierrez defends actions

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

“Absolutely not,” Gutierrez said.

“Every time a warning went out, every teacher on that campus thought it could be a potentially escalating situation,” she said.

Gutierrez said she immediately initiated a lockdown with an app called Raptor after learning that an armed man had jumped a school fence.

“I feel like I did the best I could with the education I received,” she said when asked if she thought she should lose her job. “And I will doubt myself for the rest of my life.”

The director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Colonel Steven McCraw, called the police response last month an “abject failure.” He put the sole blame for not engaging the gunman on the school district police chief, Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who has been identified by officials as the on-site commander.

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

Asked about the police’s delay in confronting the gunman, Gutierrez said she is frustrated but unable to find fault.

“I’m not a law enforcement officer 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 like I can blame anyone.”

Gutierrez added: “I would blame things that are outside my circle of control, which is that I can’t make the laws. So I can’t, I can’t decide how old you have to be to buy a firearm “I can’t decide how much ammunition someone can buy. I can’t decide how much security we have on campus.”

Director was ‘assuming my staff and my students were all safe’

The director said she prayed during the shooting and siege that followed.

“I wanted everyone to leave safely,” she said. “I didn’t want to leave until I was reassured that all my staff and all my students were safe. Until that last moment, I had the impression that my staff and my students were all safe.”

According to her lawyer, Ricardo Cedillo, Gutierrez has been placed on paid administrative leave.

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

CNN review of videos shows Uvalde headmaster in central role in unfolding carnage

In a letter to House Committee members investigating the shooting, Gutierrez disputed several of their findings. She said the door to room 111, one of the two classrooms where the victims were murdered, was checked by prison staff every night, including the night before the shooting. She also wrote that she cannot remember the teacher in that room complaining that the door didn’t lock, according to the letter released by her lawyer on Wednesday.

“What I know for sure is that the door to room 111 was indeed locked,” she said in the interview. “And the reason I know that is because we regularly walk around campus and I used my master key to unlock that door myself.”

Arnulfo Reyes, who taught in room 111, told CNN that Gutierrez’s claims in her letter about the door-locking mechanism are not entirely accurate. He said he wasn’t complaining that the door was locked, but that the door got stuck or stuck all day.

Reyes said he complained that the door jammed several times over three years. Reyes said the door was locked during the day and normally locked when he arrived at the school. When asked if he remembers the door being locked on the day of the shooting, Reyes said he can’t remember.

In her letter, Gutierrez acknowledged problems with Robb’s faltering WiFi. She wrote that she had not used the PA system on the day of the shooting because she had learned that using it could “cause panic.” She denied the existence of a “culture of complacency” at the school, saying it is “unfair and inaccurate” to conclude that she was complacent about safety.

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

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

“The commission relied on the testimony of interviews with multiple employees of the Uvalde CISD (including staff and administration) and the Uvalde CISD Police Department to reach its conclusions regarding the practices that took place at Robb Elementary School,” Burrows said.

A spokesperson for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, citing a large number of media requests, asked for at least two days to respond.

Uvalde City Council to Investigate Every City Official Responding to School Massacre

Report says client and administrators were aware of defective lock

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

The Uvalde massacre was the deadliest school shooting in America since 2012.
The Legislative Commission’s report on the May 24 school shooting cited Robb Elementary’s “culture of noncompliance with security policies,” which included failure to adequately prepare for the risk of an armed intruder and the usual practice of leave doors unlocked.

The report said Gutierrez and school administrators knew a lock to one of the classrooms where the murders took place was malfunctioning and could not repair it.

The day of the shooting, Gutierrez was in her office after an awards ceremony and tried to lock the Raptor app, but “had trouble making the alert due to a poor Wi-Fi signal,” the legislative report said. She also has not attempted to “communicate the lockdown alarm through the school intercom,” the report said.

According to the legislative report, “school staff often open doors and deliberately bypass locks.” This behavior was “silently tolerated” by school administrators and district police — and not treated as “serious violations.”

Locking doors if necessary could have slowed the gunman’s “progress for a few precious minutes—long enough to receive warnings, hide children, and lock doors; and long enough to give police more opportunity to to engage and stop the attacker before he could 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 gunman. Their report states that state and federal agents at the scene were equally to blame for the delay in confronting the gunman.

Uvalde school officials announced on Monday that efforts have been made to improve safety when classes resume early next month. The plans include the installation of bulletproof windows and metal detectors, the hiring of 10 additional police officers and the identification of one entry point for each school. According to the legislative report, five officers were employed by the district at the time of the shooting.

Rosalina Nieves Raja Razek, Amanda Musa and Brad Parks of CNN contributed to this report.

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