An attorney representing the Uvalde school shooting victims and their families said the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District violated parents' 14th Amendment right to life and liberty leading up to and during the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School.
Civil rights attorney Charles Bonner, co-founder of Bonner & Bonner Law, intends to sue Uvalde CISD, the city, the school district police department and other law enforcement agencies in a $27 billion class action lawsuit. Bonner told K-12 Dive that his firm will file a constitutional rights lawsuit against Uvalde CISD in Texas, saying it deprived parents of their right to protect their children and make decisions about their health, safety and welfare.
The school district, Bonner said, was negligent when it allowed doors to stay unlocked and unrepaired despite school policy requiring locked doors.
"The shooter walked right into an open door," Bonner said. "Had the parents been informed that the school district was not adequately protecting their children, then — under the 14th Amendment right of liberty — they could have chosen to move their children to another location in order to protect their children's safety and health."
Bonner also said the 19 children killed were deprived of their right to life. Two teachers also lost their lives during the mass shooting.
Those who survived, he said, are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. "Some of the children — our clients — have resorted to wetting the bed. These are 9-year-old children," said Bonner. "Some are reliving this trauma over and over in their minds. They can't sleep. They can't leave their parents' side."
Bonner will also file the suit on behalf of victims under state law for negligent intentional infliction of emotional distress, in addition to various additional claims.
Three weeks ago, Bonner — who is also representing victims of a May mass shooting in a Buffalo, New York, supermarket — signaled his intention to sue the district when his firm filed a notice of claim of a class action against the city and school district. The $27 billion, he said, would contribute to medical expenses like counseling and compensate for students' traumatic experience.
Bonner also hopes it will act as a deterrent for law enforcement agencies and gun manufacturers. Multiple law enforcement officials, including the chief of school district police, will be implicated in the lawsuit for violating active shooter training.
School 'did not adequately prepare' for shooting
In July, an 80-page report released by the Texas House of Representatives Investigative Committee on the Robb Elementary shooting found the school and its police violated protocol and policy.
The school's five-foot fence, routinely unlocked and propped doors, and dysfunctional locks were inadequate, the report found.
"At a minimum, school administrators and school district police tacitly condoned this behavior as they were aware of these unsafe practices and did not treat them as serious infractions requiring immediate correction," the committee wrote. "In fact, the school actually suggested circumventing the locks as a solution for the convenience of substitute teachers and others who lacked their own keys."
The investigative committee also included in its report that the district's written active shooter plan directed its police chief to take on command and control in case of a shooting, which former chief Pete Arredondo did not do despite being one of the first responders on the scene. "The void of leadership could have contributed to the loss of life as injured victims waited over an hour for help, and the attacker continued to sporadically fire his weapon," committee members found.
Arredondo, who was fired by the Uvalde school board in August, said he did not believe he was the commander in charge during the attack, although officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety described him as such.
The report concluded that law enforcement officers failed to adhere to their active shooter training.
"With hindsight we can say that Robb Elementary did not adequately prepare for the risk of an armed intruder on campus," the committee concluded.