One by one, dozens of angry parents and residents lambasted the Uvalde school board, repeatedly calling for the superintendent to be fired and trustees to step down after more law enforcement failures were revealed in the response to the shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School.
“Shame on you!” a chorus erupted as the meeting got underway Monday evening.
Hundreds of community members crammed into an Auditorium at Uvalde High School, questioning school officials’ handling of safety and demanding accountability from the people paid to protect children and school staff.
Several speakers reinforced calls for the firing of embattled Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo, who remains on paid administrative leave even after resigning his City Council seat.
“If he’s not fired by noon tomorrow, I want your resignation and every single one of you board members because y’all don’t give a damn about our children or us,” Brett Cross told Superintendent Hal Harrell and other board members.
Cross’ niece, 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, died in the May 24 shooting.
While some board members attempted to respond to the flurry of complaints and criticisms, none offered concrete information or details that assuaged the audience’s apparent fury. Instead, they appeared dumbfounded by continued calls for transparency and a change in leadership.
Monday’s school board meeting, which lasted more than three hours, followed the release of a dramatic police bodycam video that showed multiple officers expressing confusion and doubt over the delay in moving in on the shooter.
The release of the footage follows a blistering report, released Sunday, by a Texas committee that found “systemic failure and egregiously poor decision making” by law enforcement and the school district.
Investigators found a lack of leadership and coordinated response among responding law enforcement agencies, problems with school infrastructure and communication, including poor Wi-Fi, unlocked doors and a failure to identify the gunman’s previous behavior as a potential threat.
“I am disgusted with your leadership,” Robb Elementary School parent Tina Ann Quintanilla-Taylor said at Monday’s meeting.
Her daughter, Mehle Taylor, 10, lost her best friend, Rogelio Torres, in the shooting. He was one of several of Taylor’s close friends killed in the massacre.
“I don’t want to go to your school if you don’t have protection,” Taylor told the school board Monday evening.
Last week, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District announced security plans for the upcoming academic year including relocating elementary students to other schools and adding more security and fencing to campuses.
School officials said they plan to propose postponing the start of the academic year until after Labor Day as officials finalize security plans upgrades, including hiring additional law enforcement officers.
But parents, residents and even students from other Uvalde-area schools say more needs to be done to protect children, criticizing current plans as insufficient.
“How am I supposed to come back here?” asked Uvalde High School student Jazmin Cazares, whose younger sister, Jaclyn, was among those killed on May 24.
“What are you going to do to make sure I don’t have to watch my friends die?” she asked. “What are you going to do make sure I don’t have to wait 77 minutes bleeding out on the floor just like my sister did?”
Robb Elementary School parent Rachel Martinez said her daughter cries at the thought of returning to school and feels safe only at home with her parents.
“This failure falls on all of you,” she said.
“You need to clean house,” Martinez said. “You need to start from zero. Hire experienced trained officers who are prepared to take the responsibility to protect our children.”
Monday’s calls for accountability Echoes what community members have been demanding since the deadly shooting. Residents have gathered in auditoriums, flooded the streets in protest and even attended hearings across Texas in an attempt to secure justice for the victims and understand how the law enforcement response failed so spectacularly.
“I can hold myself together now because I’ve done my crying. Now it’s time to do my fighting,” said Vicente Salazar, grandfather of Robb Elementary School victim Layla Salazar. “This is just the beginning of a war you guys created.”