UVALDE, Texas — The wounds are fresh, the trauma is real and the mistrust is deep in Uvalde.
The crowd was restless at Monday’s Uvalde CISD board meeting – the first since the release of surveillance footage and an investigative report.
“Shame on you!” people yelled, demanding accountability from elected members and superintendent Hal Harrell.
Much of their ire was aimed at suspended Uvalde school police chief Pete Arredondo.
“If he’s not fired by noon tomorrow I want your resignation,” the father of one of the 19 children who died told Harrell.
“And every single one of you board members, too.”
Anger boiled over as people repeatedly asked if Arredondo would be terminated.
The report released Sunday by the Texas House investigative committee places blame on all law enforcement officers who responded to the May 24 massacre.
While the Uvalde ISD school shooting response plan called for Arredondo to be incident commander if a shooting happened on campus, he testified to committee members that he didn’t consider himself in command that day.
The report says, absent a cohesive response or an incident command post, any of the other officers on scene – local, state or federal – could have taken charge.
Instead, chaos unfolded.
Students and teachers waited for more than an hour to be rescued from their classrooms while police were just steps away.
“Not one was man enough to go in there. 77 minutes. 77 minutes!” one local pastor told school board members. "Your boy, Pete, he dropped the ball big time."
He told the superintendent and all the board members that families deserved for them to take responsibility.
“Be man enough to come and say, we failed you!” he said.
Jazmin Cazares, sister of victim Jackie Cazares, asked the board how they could expect her to return to school in just a few weeks.
She’s entering her senior year of high school.
“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 to make sure I don’t have to wait 77 minutes bleeding out on my classroom floor, just like my little sister did?” Cazares asked.
Several family members who lost children asked why Arredondo remains on the district’s payroll while several mothers and fathers are without paychecks because they don't have the strength to return to jobs.
And many of the children who survived are scared to return to school.
“Most of those kids were my friends,” said one 10-year-old student. “I don’t want to go to your school if we don’t have protection."
Harrell is proposing pushing back the start of the next school year to after Labor Day. He’s also considering offering a virtual option for students.
He told the parents that before school starts, campuses will have new, taller fences surrounding them. Doors will be inspected to ensure they lock. Many will be replaced. New surveillance cameras will be installed.
“There were lots of failures,” he told the crowd, “and we are working to correct those failures.”
But new security measures won’t bring back the 19 students and two teachers who died, nor do they bring survivors much peace.
“My daughter, Layla, is so terrified of the thought of returning to school that she comes to tears. What will you tell her?” one mother asked.
Another father summed it up with this: “You all failed us. If something doesn’t change, I’ll pull all three of my kids out of your school.”