• Emily Amador

Robb Elementary School Shooting–A Community in Grief

Robb elementary school has meant a lot for the history of Mexican Activism. The school itself is located in a historically segregated city: Uvalde. The student body is 90% Mexican-American. Its founding also reflected this demographic, even when Uvalde was a majority white town with the white population mostly occupying the East and the Mexican population occupying the West. It was always a school mostly populated by Mexican students and these students and the surrounding Mexican community have fought a long battle in Uvalde for Mexican American equality. The school, in its founding, was known for being a school Mexican students attended. It was under-resourced: no playgrounds, improper foundation.

These movements especially accelerated in the 60’s, when Uvalde’s demographic was largely composed of agricultural farm labor. These movements for equity were led by former Mexican American teacher Josue Garza. The school’s administration at that time was largely white and refused to invest resources and money for the school. As a result, the school lacked sports teams — and even facilities for sports teams to use. Josue Garza personally raised money for a track and a basketball court. He also worked with students on an agricultural project: planting pecan trees. The principal at the time, who was white, did not support the idea questioning how the plant would be maintained. Garza vowed to take responsibility for the maintenance of the plant and was ultimately allowed to pursue the project with his students, many of whose parents were farm laborers.

His efforts reflected his passion of giving his Mexican community the same resources and quality of life as the neighboring white community. Specifically, Dalton Elementary school which was located on the east side of Uvalde, thus enrolling a majority white student population. Dalton Elementary was kempt and had many resources which Robb Elementary lacked. The hole in the Brown v Board decision shown through: the burden of desegregation was put on the burden of non-white students.

Josue Garza was the person parents approached for problems, not the principal. He served as a helpful resource, especially because many of the parents of students were non-English speakers. Students during this time were disciplined for speaking Spanish or a native language that was non-English; this could even include spankings from their teachers.

During his teaching career Garza also began pursuing a master’s degree, which the principal of the school was threatened by. Nearing the end of the school year the school district did not renew Garza’s contract, citing no particular reason. To the board members who met afterward to finalize the decision, the needs of the community were not prioritized in any way, apparently reflecting a lack of concern about this Mexican-American school community.

As a result of their decision to not Renew Garza’s contract, many parents and students organized walkouts. Some parents even unenrolled their children. In the wake of this, a senior student at Uvalde High School, Elvia Perez, worked with her peers to draft a list of demands for the schools to meet, amongst the demands was the retention of more Hispanic teachers. The students were confronted with authority: Texas Rangers with rifles. Recalling the walkout to give the list to the school board, Perez expressed, “I remember walking across the street, and for some reason, I just looked up, and I looked up the barrel of a Texas Ranger's rifle. They were on the roof with their rifles pointing down at us…I was heartbroken. I was heartbroken because I thought, I am an American citizen from generations, and all of a sudden, we're being treated this way? Like, I was appalled. I was 17. I had no idea that people would react that way.”

As the year progressed, the movement died down: parents feeling threatened they would be fired by their white employers and students losing enthusiasm about the movement. This may be a loss to some but, it invoked a lawsuit filed by a parent to the Uvalde school district that resulted in the Uvalde schools being forced to, on paper, desegregate. In addition La Raza Unida Party was formed and came to be one of the most prominent Chicanx liberation movements. The school and city have been a haven of Mexican American movements.

Now, students nationally are walking out of their classes in advocacy for rational gun control measures, in the wake of 19 elementary srtudetns and two teachers were murdered during a school shooting Robb Elementary sschool. The gunman, Salvador Ramos, 18, was killed by responders. Still, however, he stole innocent lives and greedily ruined the lives of students who survived with trauma and a community that will never be repaired.

During the shooting, it is reported that students repeatedly called 911, and a boy in a classroom recalls his friend being shot five times after trying to call the police while the active shooter was in their classroom. Col. Steven McCraw, the director for Texas Development of Public Safety, admits that the law enforcement official who made the decision to not intervene made the wrong decision.

Further analysis of the mass shooting, and moments leading to the mass shooting, show that it could have been prevented. He posted cryptic messages showing the guns he was legally able to purchase and messaged a girl from Germany detailing his heinous crimes as he committed them.

Videos are also surfacing of parents crowding the school as the active shooter was in the school begging law enforcement to go inside and confront the gunman. Some parents, themselves, desperately tried getting through law enforcement to get into the building. It was one entire hour from the time polie encountered the shooter and to the time he was killed.

Police arrived 10-15 minutes after the shooter crashed his grandmother's truck near the school and fired shots at people near a funeral home. They saw the gunman make entry into a joint classroom, but , after 2 officers suffered gunshot wounds, did not intercept. They instead waited for a tactical team to arrive. An entire hour later, a border patrol tactical team arrived — too late for the 19 elementary students and 2 teachers killed.

Questions have arisen regarding the school building. Many coming to terms that it is despicable to expect a child to return into the same doors they saw their friends and teachers murdered in.

This article features the names and bio of the lives taken. Read their stories, they are more than just a name, statistic, and Uvalde.


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