Remembering the 21 Lives Lost at Uvalde With a New School Safety Bill and Funding

On Tuesday, May 24th, twenty-one beautiful souls, 19 children, and 2 adults, were senselessly shot and killed by a gunman who opened fire in one classroom at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The shooting is the third-largest mass school shooting.

This is so sad, just so very sad. To think a parent can send a child off to school and for that very act of responsible parenting, lose their child. How in the United States of America do we not all see that every one of us is now at risk. 

The news of the Uvalde shooting also follows two other recent shootings (within the last 30 days), one at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY that killed 10 people, and one at a church in Orange County, CA that resulted in one fatality.

The gunman, a kid himself, was an 18-year-old student at Uvalde High School. He was engaged in gunfire with Border patrol, where a Border Patrol Agent of the Specialized Tactical Unit shot him dead to immediately stop the carnage.  According to law enforcement, the shooter was carrying a handgun, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, and high-capacity magazines.

There shouldn’t be any way that someone with the gunman’s state of mind should legally own a gun. 

According to NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Health), 5.6% of U.S. adults experienced serious mental illness in 2020 (14.2 million people). This represents 1 in 20 adults. But in RAW numbers this translates to the possibility of 15 million guns in the hands of those people. Not all people suffering from mental health issues are evil and mass shooters, but it is important to have checks that keep one’s mental state in mind before allowing them to get a gun.

Unify The USA

At GrantWatch we believe that these murders of innocents must count for something greater than memorial services and remembrances. The time for action was yesterday in Uvalde, a year ago, and even a decade ago. The action needed is unity. We must all get behind a series of layered policy initiatives within our community. And we must do it with a new School and Community Safety Bill.

The only politics is to realize that this tragedy is not political and should never be

What we need to do is not let political correctness make us blind to the fact that violent mentally ill individuals should not have guns! The common theme in every shooting has been that law enforcement, schools, family members, friends, neighbors, and social media knew they were violent, mentally ill, and had guns.

Public policy changes and increased funding

Real policy changes need layers. This is not a one-stop issue. We need public policy in place that creatively embraces many facets of the solution, as well as implementation with funding of a series of layers to protect our children. 

However, it is not enough to just simply rely on policy. Policy requires action, which requires real funding. At a time of high inflation, lawmakers do not want another spending bill. We need to follow the unspent money in our government budgets. We need to additionally seek out federal, state, local, foundation, and corporate grants and make a difference.

There are currently available grants for preventative programs and initiatives
  1. Contracts are available for services to New York nonprofits or Public Benefit Corporations to develop urgent mental health centers. Centers will provide walk-in treatment to any individuals experiencing an acute mental health and/or substance use crisis.
  2. In addition, grants are open to New York nonprofit organizations and local hospitals in eligible locations to administer programs to reduce gun violence and provide services for victims of crime. 
  3. Grants and cooperative agreements are also available to nonprofits, for-profits, Tribes, agencies, school districts, and IHEs to reduce and prevent violent crime. Funding is to support comprehensive, evidence-based violence intervention and prevention programs.
  4. There is funding to early-career researchers affiliated with nonprofits, for-profits, IHEs, government agencies, tribes, and school districts to support research related to mental illness
  5. Funding is also available to nonprofits, institutions of higher education, public agencies, and Tribal entities for programs that assist victims of crime
  6. Grants and in-kind support are available to nonprofit organizations for projects to address the mental health needs of children and young adults.
  7. There are also grants of up to $50,000 to Alabama nonprofits and local and state government agencies for programs that prevent young people from entering the juvenile justice system.
  8. Grants are also open to state and local governments, school systems, Indian tribes, and public agencies to enhance security in K-12 schools and on school premises.
  9. Additionally, grants are avialable to emergency response providers for training and equipment. Eligible applicants include paramedic or EMS departments, fire departments, and law enforcement departments.

The Layered Prevention Approach

 Mental Health services should be free and available 

Mental health resources are needed to help individuals and families and should be easily accessible. Youths are unsure where to go for help. Time and time again, we see these shooters have struggled with mental health in the past. Whether problems socially, a rough home life, or violent tendencies, mental health seems to be a common factor.

The gunman in this particular shooting was severely bullied in middle school for his speech impediment, according to former friends. These friends also noted a change in his personality over time. They said he started wearing all black and grew his hair out.

Anti-bullying curriculum and conflict resolution

An anti-bullying curriculum and the resolution are what need to be taught in our schools.  We need to unify our classrooms and community.  We also need to fund programs that seek common ground.

Children need to know how to handle a problem in school and at home and to have a place to go within the community to get help.  Schools need to hold parents and students accountable for bullying.  A child should not have hate because no one stood up for him.

The news has reported that one friend stated that the gunman would drive around with another friend and shoot at random people with a BB gun, as well as egg people’s cars. Another friend said he once cut his face with knives multiple times “for fun.” 

The signs were there. Not only is it incredibly crucial that one’s peers, family and friends, and teachers speak up when they see something happening, but it is also imperative that when people speak up, real action is taken. 

Where does all this hate come from? When parents are fighting, the children usually act up. The United States’ three branches of government are like the parents and they are fighting and finger-pointing and playing the blame game for everything, and our communities, streets, and schools are not safe. 

Social media awareness 

The gunman in Uvalde had allegedly posted pictures of guns on an Instagram account just days before the attack. There are also accounts of him messaging a random woman on Instagram shortly before the massacre warning that he was about to do something and tagging her in a photo of guns. 

With the last shooting, we were seeing all the plans that were flooding on a social media platform. But they failed us this time. Where are the watchdogs for violence on social media? If you see something, say something. But who do you tell?  There should be an awareness campaign.

Law enforcement

We also heard that he was a person of interest. With the catch and release or the lack of supervision or follow-up, bad things are happening. Law enforcement funding needs to be matching with policy. You cannot say why did the police not act on it? If a policy was in place and the funds for this kind of checks and balances, after an arrest or evidence of violence or event, tragedies could be averted.

Teacher and volunteer training 

Meanwhile, educators and volunteers are positioning to be first responders in the event of a shooting. Adequately trained and equipped a teacher or school volunteer can disable a shooter. Immediate response within seconds counts to prevent a tragedy.

Law enforcement in every school is at this time, practically impossible, given the number of schools and the number of law enforcement. However, retired military and former law enforcement can also play a critical role in safeguarding our schools. With their background in protection services, they would make excellent school volunteers and should be provided with a volunteer stipend for their time. Funding is necessary.

One such program is the Colorado FASTER program, which stands for Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response. FASTER training enables teachers, administrators, and other school employees to stop school violence quickly and administer medical aid immediately. FASTER should not be a replacement for Police and EMTs. Instead, it enables on-site personnel to save lives through prompt action.

Law enforcement agencies could provide this training in your local school with the correct funding priorities.

Target harden our schools
Tripwire, mantraps, cameras, metal detectors in schools

Tripwire and mantraps make it harder for gunmen to enter to attack a school. Overall, these are a prevention mechanism locking system that requires a person to pass through an entryway and be buzzed in or be locked down and isolated if they present a danger. Metal detectors will set off an alert, as well as some cameras. Locking system for all building doors and an alarm when opened.

Perimeter fencing around schools

We can also restrict access to our schools with school security fencing set to code.  Perimeter fencing and other security methods can help stop intruders at the door and keep our children protected.  

Enhanced communication with the school office and law enforcement

Having a variety of hidden and silent methods within each classroom to start an alert will get law enforcement on premises without causing harm to the people in the direct line of fire.

Sharing of Best Practices for School Safety

Create a clearinghouse of research of the best practices for school safety that can be shared with all law enforcement federal, state, local agencies, schools, private educational institutions and security consultants.

Our message to the parents and families of the Uvalde, Texas tragedy

We at GrantWatch cry with Uvalde and hope that your children and family members’ lives bring meaning to the need for school safety, saving countless other lives. Our staff offers our condolences and that your grief be lessened each day and you remember their lives, once lived. We are sorry for your loss.


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