Uvalde CISD campus monitor fired after sharing school shooting threat with DPS trooper

Campus monitors were brought on UCISD campuses to provide support with security and report any infractions

UVALDE, Texas – A former Uvalde CISD campus monitor is claiming he was wrongfully terminated from the district.

The campus monitors were brought on to provide additional safety and security following the shooting at Robb Elementary.

They work alongside the district’s police department as well as the Department of Public Safety troopers still on campuses.

Campus monitors created

On July 25, 2022, just two months after the deadly shooting at Robb Elementary, then-Uvalde CISD Superintendent Dr. Hal Harrell announced the district would be adding campus monitors to each school.

“Another thing we’re going to implement: campus monitors. One, at least one person to continually walk the campus throughout the day,” Harrell said to the crowd sitting inside the John H. Harrell Auditorium. “We want eyes on, feet out, people moving throughout, invisible throughout the day.”

According to district records, the primary purpose of the monitors is “to provide support with security by way of roving foot patrol of interior and exterior perimeter of campus throughout the day. Observe and report security infractions.”

Thomas Sanchez was one of the people who answered the call to action.

“You observe. You’re constantly making your rounds,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez spent 20 years working in prison corrections, so he has a background in law enforcement. When he heard about the campus monitor positions from a friend, he knew he wanted to be a part of it.

Sanchez was the campus monitor at Morales Junior High School for more than a year, routinely checking doors and gates, and helping with sporting events. Sanchez said he fills out a spreadsheet weekly that details if doors or gates are left open, and if they are, was that by human error or faulty equipment.

Sanchez said one of his daughters attends Morales while his other daughter recently graduated from the school.

“I mean, who else wouldn’t want to be there with their kids and make sure they’re safe?” Sanchez said.

A part of his job includes talking to visitors and parents as they come to the school.

Threat reported

This past November, Sanchez said a parent told him about a threat at the school.

“At that time, I called the resource officer if she could meet me where I was at,” Sanchez said.

As a part of the listed responsibilities for the campus monitor position, campus monitors are required to notify the school principal and “Directors of Security and School Safety of major security infractions.”

Sanchez said an administrator was walking by when he and the parent spoke to the resource officer, so he also told the administrator.

As of August 2022, the Uvalde CISD campuses have been patrolled by DPS officers. According to a spokesperson, the department has 16 troopers and three sergeants stationed at the eight schools in the district.

“Today, Troopers serve as a security presence and act as a deterrent. The DPS Troopers assigned to this initiative work very hard to ensure they are making a positive impact on the students, staff and families they serve in this community. The initiative at UCISD is currently set to run through May 2024,” the statement continued.

Sanchez said they regularly interact with the troopers. After notifying UCISD staff about the threat, he also mentioned it to the troopers on campus.

“Just be vigilant of anything. You know, we see something, you know, just be, you know, on the lookout. And that’s all that was said,” Sanchez explained.

Suspension and termination

Sanchez thought nothing more of it until he got a letter from then-superintendent Gary Patterson in the mail.

The letter said Sanchez was suspended without pay, effective Nov. 17, pending the results of an investigation into his interactions with parents and staff.

On Nov. 28, Sanchez wrote a statement to UCISD’s Director of Human Resources explaining what happened the day he was told about the threat from the parent.

“The manner in which this situation has been handled is deeply unsettling. I was made to feel guilty without a chance to defend myself, compounded by a suspension without pay, which feels unjust and unwarranted,” Sanchez wrote in the statement.

He concluded by saying his motivation has always been the safety and security of the students and staff at UCISD.

One day later, Sanchez received another letter stating, “...it is in the best interest of the District for you to be terminated from your position as a member of the security team.”

“All of this stems from the fact that you wanted more people to be aware of a threat. A parent was so concerned, she sought out to tell you,” KSAT investigative reporter Leigh Waldman asked.

“Yep,” Sanchez said.

He filed an appeal for his termination through the district’s grievance process. Employees with the district can file a level one, two, or three grievance.

In Sanchez’s case, he had a meeting with UCISD police chief Josh Gutierrez on Dec. 15 where he went over the details of his grievance. Sanchez reiterated that he felt it was his duty to notify the troopers of the threat.

On Jan. 4, Gutierrez sent a Level One Grievance Response letter.

In it, Gutierrez wrote, “Your first listed responsibility on the job description is to maintain a high level of confidentiality, which in this situation you did not do in sharing the rumor with the DPS officers.”

School records show it is the first and last responsibility listed for the campus monitor position.

The letter goes on to imply that by Sanchez sharing the information about the threat with the trooper, he “created unnecessary stress and animosity” between the district and DPS and “did not do anything to help secure the campus.”

“Your mentality in telling those troopers was just to have more eyes?” Waldman asked Sanchez.

“Yeah, more eyes. I mean, it’s not just myself and the administration, but there’s more eyes looking,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said he looked at the DPS troopers on campus as brothers in law enforcement, working together for one goal: keeping students and teachers safe.

Gutierrez’s grievance response letter states this situation with the DPS trooper is not the sole reason Sanchez was fired.

It states Sanchez had previously sent complaints to district staff about the Morales Junior High School principal in how she operates the campus and coordinates work.

“You have complained about how she speaks to you and have stated that you are not comfortable working for a woman who is younger than you,” the letter states.

Sanchez said those allegations are false.

He filed an appeal to Gutierrez’s decision and has a meeting scheduled with Superintendent Ashley Chohlis to continue working through the grievance process.

Uvalde CISD provided the following statement regarding Sanchez’s termination.

It is important to note that the district administration is currently working through the grievance process with Mr. Sanchez, including the rationale behind his release from working with Uvalde CISD. While you may have questions surrounding the details of his termination, we assure you that Mr. Sanchez has been given the reasons for his termination. As you know, we do not, as a general practice, share employee work information as the District is committed to treating all employees with respect and dignity, including in their separation from the District. Out of respect for Mr. Sanchez’s privacy, we will not discuss any details of his termination. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation during this sensitive time.

Anne Marie Espinoza, Uvalde CISD

DOJ report highlights failures in UCISD

In the same month as his firing, the Department of Justice released a damning 610-page report into the law enforcement response to the Robb Elementary School shooting.

The report examines the “cascading failures” by law enforcement which led to the large number of casualties.

The DOJ report includes hundreds of recommendations and observations which is intended to prevent similar failures in the future. The report mentioned “multiagency training” dozens of times. “Communication” is mentioned hundreds of times.

In Chapter 8. Pre-Incident Planning and Preparation, the report illustrates how crucial pre-incident planning is in responding to mass violence incidents and how this was not done by agencies before the Robb Elementary shooting.

“One of the biggest failures from a pre-incident perspective was the lack of multijurisdictional and multidisciplinary coordination, exercises, drills, and communication,” the report stated.

The City of Uvalde released a statement in response to the DOJ report, which discussed changes they’ve implemented since the shooting happened, including “enhance(d) coordination with other law enforcement entities” like the Uvalde CISD Police Department.

“What happened with Robb, if there was already an infrastructure in place and it didn’t work, you would think with a new administration coming in. Let’s take...let’s revisit that,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez plans to work through the grievance process within the district, hoping to get his job back and policies changed so they can have interagency communication with the troopers they work beside daily.

“I feel that these individuals need to be held accountable. It’s wrong what they did,” Sanchez said.

Read more reporting on the KSAT Investigates page.

About the Authors

Leigh Waldman is an investigative reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

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