Texas school shooting: Washington superintendent weighs in on safety measures taken in the state

On Tuesday, May 24, an 18-year-old gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, killing at least 19 children and two teachers. 

The gunman was shot and killed by law enforcement. He acted alone. 

Many of the victims were in the second through fourth grades, and according to EdWeek.org, this was the 27th school shooting in the United States this year alone. 

One of those shootings occurred in Yakima when a gunman opened fire outside Eisenhower High School, killing his cousin and injuring another student. 

Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal, spoke with FOX 13 after the shooting in Texas to discuss what measures are already being taken in Washington schools to help in preventing mass shootings, and what else needs to be done. 

"We've really built out a lot of systems in the last four of five years, mostly bipartisan work in the legislature, significant investments in school safety, physical safety, of course. We're designing our buildings with different access points and lots of districts of course have their own local safety officials. We have what is called ‘threat assessment’ statewide in all of our regions, where when we think there is a student in crisis, there are teams that can intervene on a regional basiscommunity-based mental health providers, law enforcement—  we can really move quickly," Reykdal explained. 

However, Reykdal was very clear on one thing: we can take all the measures in the world and it won't ultimately keep schools fully protected from mass shooters.

"We do need to have a conversation about the volume of gun density and how easy it is to access if you are a young person in this country," Reykdal explained. 

He also said there needs to be more discussions on whether there's a benefit to having armed officers in schools. 

"We saw the tragedy in Buffalo of an armed officer there to protect people from an exact kind of event like that and he was no match for that-- for somebody fully armed, so you can't harden schools and spend billions of dollars and still keep everyone safe even with all those measures. There’s no question we should have better national frameworks and we clearly could use more resources, but it isn't going to change until we all have a different set of decisions we make in our personal lives about gun ownership," Reykdal told FOX 13. 

Reykdal says kids today are "very aware of how unsafe the world can be." He says educators try to talk to their students about the low probability of a school shooting, the safety protocols each school has in place, and encourages an open dialogue between families. 

Parents are encouraged to reach out to their district or school board with any questions about safety protocols or active shooter drills. 

"We are one of the better states in the country on this, but nothing is going to substitute for trying to have a better conversation about young people not accessing firearms in their homes. That is the source of all of these deadly and tragic school shootings," Reykdal said.