Thursday was the last time Melissa Ansley’s daughters will attend public school in the foreseeable future.
Law enforcement vehicles screamed past her home Friday morning along State Highway 6, about a mile east of Santa Fe High School. As she read details of the latest school massacre on her phone, Ansley decided not to allow her 11- and 13-year-old daughters to go back to their Santa Fe ISD campuses.
“I won’t put my kids back in school,” she said. “I’m going to homeschool them because this kind of stuff scares me.”
As schools across the greater Houston area prepare to open for the first time since a 17-year-old gunman opened fire in Santa Fe High School, killing 10 and wounding 13 others, parents and students question if their schools have done enough to prevent a potential massacre.
All four schools in Santa Fe ISD will remain closed at least Monday and Tuesday, district officials said in a social media post.
A few districts near the shooting have already pledged to beef up security after the shooting. In Clear Creek ISD, which shares a border with Santa Fe ISD, Superintendent Greg Smith wrote there would be an increase in “police visibility” through the end of the school year. Dickinson ISD pledged additional officers would be stationed at its schools and staff would update the district’s safety plans.
Angleton ISD Superintendent Pat Montgomery wrote more officers would patrol the district’s eight regular campuses.
“We do not believe that there is anything to be concerned about or wrong,” Montgomery wrote, “we just want to make sure you feel safe sending your child to school and that our students and staff feel safe coming to school.”
Some parents do not.
On parent Facebook forums from Humble to Fort Bend, folks debated additional security measures and recalled their students’ experiences with active-shooter drills.
Some parents in Fort Bend ISD worried portable classroom buildings, with thin metal siding, would be easily pierced by bullets. Parents in Dickinson and Galveston ISDs created petitions calling for metal detectors at all school entrances.
Carrie Whiten, whose 16-year-old daughter attends Kingwood High School in Humble ISD, proposed creating a volunteer sign-up so parents could greet and monitor students as they stream into school each morning. She said she is not worried about her daughter finishing out the school year in the northwest Houston suburb but wants to find more immediate solutions.
“I think those vulnerable soft spots are right as kids entering main big entrances, and that’s something we as parents could do to help,” Whiten said. “I just think right now, doing the status quo isn’t going to work.”
Mike Haynes spent part of Sunday wrestling with whether to allow his 13-year-old daughter to go to classes at her Texas City ISD middle school on Monday.
The operations manager for Exxon Mobil said there was too little time between the Santa Fe High School shooting and Monday for the campus to make meaningful security changes. Haynes is unsure what security measures would be most effective, but he said metal detectors, armed guards at all entrances and outfitting exits with one-way doors would be good places to start.
Those solutions could be pricey, Haynes said, but he challenged school districts to invest in more security infrastructure and spend less on multimillion-dollar football stadiums.
“As a parent it’s a big concern,” Haynes said. “This happened right in our back yard, and it was a matter of time. People are walking around blind, acting like it’s not going to happen here. Well, why not? What was going to keep it from happening here? Nothing.”