Protecting kids in school must be more than 'rhetoric,' real world solutions needed: Experts

The Texas school shooting at Robb Elementary left 19 children dead

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Shootings carried out in places where there are fewer security measures, known as "soft targets," have rocked America at least three times over the last 12 days. The tragedies have sparked calls to beef up security in buildings such as schools and for politicians to stop with their rhetoric immediately after the tragedies.

"There's certainly been a push by some with the woke agenda to remove police officers from schools, and I couldn't think of an actually worse idea right now," Fraternal Order of Police National Vice President Joe Gamaldi told Fox News Digital Wednesday. "Schools are a particularly soft target. They're doing the best job that they can right now," 

A shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, Tuesday left 19 children and two adults dead after suspected gunman Salvador Ramos opened fire inside. School leaders stretching from metro Atlanta, to Washington, D.C., to Central Florida have since increased police security and officers’ visibility at schools to protect children from potential threats. 

Fox News Digital spoke to Robert McDonald, a former Secret Service agent and criminal justice expert at the University of New Haven, who said schools have come a long way in recent years with training and drills on how to protect against attacks. He added, however, that more safety measures need to be implemented and political rhetoric following such atrocities must end. 

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"We're very quick to listen to the politicians pontificate about what they feel needs to be done. Somebody needs to stand up and do something. They need to come across the aisle and get a positive direction moving here to stop this. The rhetoric needs to go away, the sound bites need to go away," McDonald told Fox News Digital Wednesday.

Police walk near Robb Elementary School following a shooting Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas.

Police walk near Robb Elementary School following a shooting Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)

McDonald did not single out one particular politician while decrying the "rhetoric," but he said there needs to be a bipartisan effort launched to address everything from shootings, mental health and bail laws.

Gamaldi added in his comment to Fox News Digital that politicians jockey to "capitalize on this moment" when they should instead be focusing on the "families and the children that have been lost in that community." 

To McDonald, a "wonderful start" to better protecting children would be school districts adding more resource officers, but he noted the issue often comes down to budgets. 

"Security doesn't make money, security costs money," he said. 

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A school police officer was present at Robb Elementary Tuesday when 18-year-old Ramos began shooting, and the two exchanged gunfire, the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed to Fox News. 

Image of suspected Uvalde, Texas, school shooter Salvador Ramos.

Image of suspected Uvalde, Texas, school shooter Salvador Ramos. (Uvalde Police Department)

Gov. Greg Abbott praised law enforcement for their bravery and for preventing the shooting from being more devastating.

"The reason it was not worse was because law enforcement officials did what they do. They showed amazing courage by running toward gunfire to try to save lives," Abbott said Wednesday at a press conference. 

Gamaldi called for Americans to support police departments, especially with regard to adding more officers to school campuses.  

"To have a police officer on property that can immediately engage a suspect can certainly stop a school shooting before it actually happens. So, No. 1 is we need to support our school resource officers and make sure that they are on property at different schools," Gamaldi said. 

McDonald added that, in addition to school resource officers, electronic devices and cameras that register gunshot noises and immediately alert the police could be installed in "soft targets" like schools.

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At the personal safety level, McDonald advised that individuals take note of their surroundings while they are in public spaces. 

"Just going to a diner for breakfast with your family on Sunday now is no longer a safe place," he said. He explained people should be cognizant of where exits and fire escapes are in a building and to think about personal safety before a potential tragedy, not during one. 

America has been devastated by shootings like those in Buffalo at a grocery store May 14, the Geneva Presbyterian Church May 15 in California and the school shooting in Texas, sparking politicians to issue calls for gun control. 

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President Biden addressed the nation Tuesday night, asking, "When in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?" 

Texas Republicans, however, have brushed off the calls for gun control and argued instead that law-abiding Americans arm themselves for protection. 

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"I’d much rather have law-abiding citizens armed and trained so that they can respond when something like this happens because it’s not going to be the last time," Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said after the Texas school shooting.