A school board member’s public skepticism about the ability of metal detectors to prevent school shootings has angered some Santa Fe residents.

Facebook users have spread posts by Patrick Kelly, a member of the Santa Fe Independent School District’s board of trustees since 2016, as evidence board members weren’t listening to parents when making security decisions after the deadliest school shooting in Texas history.

On May 18, a gunman opened fire on students and adults at the campus, killing 10 people and wounding more than a dozen others. A student at the high school has been charged with capital murder in connection with the shooting.

Since the shooting, two companies have offered to donate and install metal detectors at Santa Fe High School.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick last week announced the most recent offer from a company to provide metal detectors.

In a July 2 Facebook post, Kelly called the offers of metal detectors “absurd and grotesque.”

“Metal detectors will waste precious money school districts do not have and install a false sense of security,” he wrote.

Kelly is trying to be a responsible steward of the district, he told The Daily News on Monday.

He said he feared the companies were offering metal detectors to Santa Fe as a way to market future sales to other districts.

“People don’t do things for free,” Kelly said. “That’s not to say they’re not being decent, but I think there’s an ulterior motive there.”

Neither the school board nor its recently formed school safety committee has received estimates on how much it might cost the district to install, maintain and constantly monitor metal detectors, officials said.

District officials have said they will wait until the safety committee makes a recommendation on metal detectors before making any decision about installing the devices.

Kelly said he feared metal detectors would be a significant cost to the district and possibly take away from other security options.

“I’m not totally against metal detectors at all, I think it’s a line of defense” he said. “But I think the public is so hung up about it, we’re failing to talk about other things that will make us safe.”

The school board passed a $39 million budget on June 25. That budget included more funding for the district’s police department, but did not include some security measures parents have wanted.

Kelly’s public comments, and the district’s delay in making a decision, have frustrated some parents in Santa Fe.

Some believe the district should have had the devices installed before students were allowed back in the high school building five days after the shooting.

“I don’t know why those things weren’t installed right then and there,” Rhonda Hart said. Hart’s daughter, Kimberly Vaughn, was one of the 10 people killed in the May 18 shooting.

Metal detectors would be a “band-aid” or “security blanket” for students who are still scared to re-enter the high school building, Hart said. Cost shouldn’t be an issue, Hart said.

“If they can spend $800,000, or whatever it was, to replace the grass turf in the football field and put up a scoreboard, I think they can fund metal detectors,” Hart said.

The school district in 2015 agreed to pay up to $881,232 to replace the high school’s football field with artificial turf. The district approved a new LED scoreboard in March 2017.

The Santa Fe school board is scheduled to meet in a special session today. The district will consider five different items involving school security — including installing locking mechanisms on classroom doors, remodeling the high school’s front entrance and purchasing a new dual alarm system.

The district has not said how much those improvements would cost.

The board is not scheduled to discuss metal detectors, according to the posted agenda.

Soon after the meeting, a group of parents is scheduled to meet at Santa Fe City Hall. The group, called Santa Fe Parents United For Change, is set to talk about “effective security measures for the immediate protection of our students, policy changes and administrative changes” at the school district, according to a flier advertising the event.

The safety committee, which is not open to the general public, is scheduled to meet Thursday. At that meeting, the committee might finalize its first recommendations to make to the school board for its first round of safety measures.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; or on Twitter @johnwferguson.


Senior Reporter

(13) comments

Rusty Schroeder

Second to last paragraph John, "are scheduled to meet" not "is scheduled to meet". It's a story about a school district, correct grammar or a proof read would be nice. The story says it all, SFISD is going to do as they please with or without the public's concerns. Patrick Kelly has sure put himself in the fire, sounds like he has it all figured out. Good luck to the parents and students of SFISD, take it 1 day at a time.

Kimberly Klepcyk

The word “group” is a collective noun. “The group is scheduled to meet” is correct with regard to subject verb agreement. One group is scheduled to meet. He does not have an error.

Rusty Schroeder

John, I have reread your wording, both is and are would be acceptable wording. Sorry to doubt you, just sounds odd off the tongue. rs

Carlos Ponce

"Metal detectors would be a 'band-aid' or 'security blanket' for students who are still scared to re-enter the high school building, Hart said."
Such students should be identified and referred to either the school, church or city counseling services. Talking about it or even writing about it like my great-niece did on Facebook is an appropriate path to healing.
While in the 8th grade at SFJHS a young girl died while we were signing up for high school classes. The English teacher did not remove her name from the grade book. When the teacher's substitute called out the name "Gail Watson" during roll check an awkward silence followed. "Is she here or not?" One student replied, "She died," followed by more awkward silence.
While mentioning the shooting or any victim, teachers, administrators, staff should avoid awkward moments. The presence of metal detectors on campus may be reassuring to some but a chronic reminder to others of the May 18th shooting.

Ginger Gaus

After the February scare, I had a false sense of security that they (police / school district) would prevent this from happening. I for one think metal detectors are absolutely needed. Are they a complete preventative, well no. However, it would give some, my family and daughter, a sense that something physical that we can see is being implemented. As far as a reminder, that reminder will always be there for those students and parents. We’re unfortunately passed the days of sheltering their minds of such travesties.

George Croix

"He said he feared the companies were offering metal detectors to Santa Fe as a way to market future sales to other districts."

Whether you're for the detectors or against them, and good arguments exist for both, THAT is the absolute dumbest excuse I've heard so far.

Ed Matthews

Let's see how you feel by taking away metal detectors at our airports. Would you board the plane ? I feel any deterrent is better than nothing. Just say'in...

Jarvis Buckley

Kelly appears to be paranoid.

Stephanie Martin

I think they should install them.

Gary Miller

A few hundred kids with metal belt buckles, coins in pocket or purse, wrist watches, rings and bracelets will take time. Will they be required to take off shoes? Don't forget airport metal detectors don't catch all guns or bombs. Kids, because they are kids, will try to get things by them.

JR Anderson

Why would someone be so vocal against something that can help with security? He is for giving everyone a gun. Is he getting kick back from the NRA? Can someone please explain to me how anyone is going to know someone has a gun consealed without metal detectors???! They are FREE! Are our kids not worth the cost of manning them?? Dalls ISD uses them, Spring ISD uses them, Aldine ISD uses them. Are their kids lives worth more than the kids in Santa Fe?! Metal detectors are only ONE layer of many security measures that need to be implemented. Does this trustee realize how the community will respond if these do not pass?

JR Anderson

Patrick Kelly, you might want to call the FFA, TSA and the Department of Homeland Security and tell them they got it wrong and they don’t know what they are doing!

JR Anderson

Hey Patrick, you might want to call the FFA, TSA and the Department of Homeland Security and let them know they got it wrong!

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