Steve Krause concedes he hasn’t been particularly active in Santa Fe politics. After sitting through a school district meeting on Monday, he lit a cigarette and spoke with other parents, taking some final moments to debrief before going home.
Krause, who has a high-school-age daughter, has joined a group of parents who, on social media and in person, talk about what kind of security changes they want to see in Santa Fe schools before the next school year starts.
“Don’t say that too loudly,” he said upon mention of the group. Membership in the group could put the parents on the outs with school district leaders, he said.
“The district has lied, they’ve covered things up,” he said, saying he’s heard of school employees being fired for speaking out. “That’s nothing to take lightly. I just don’t see how we can trust the board right now.”
The Santa Fe Independent School District’s board of trustees meeting on Monday was the first regular board meeting since the May 18 shooting that left 10 people dead and 13 others injured. Held a little more than a month after the shooting, the meeting had its moments of normalcy that’s mostly been elusive for people in the community since the tragedy.
It started with the announcement of academic awards, meant for the district’s youngest students. They were called up by name to shake hands with the board members. The board passed its annual budget, received an investment report and approved a new procurement management agreement — normal things done by every school board around Texas.
But the routine was interrupted as parents signed up to speak during the board’s 30-minute public comment period.
Many parents seemed distrustful of the district and its leaders. Some threatened to lead campaigns in upcoming elections to replace them, others online have contemplated lawsuits.
Some blamed the board for not having better security plans in place before the shooting.
“My son is dead because you all didn’t address it,” said Rosie Yanas, the mother of shooting victim Chris Stone.
Some speakers also brought up past incidents in the district, saying they did not feel adequately informed about what had happened then, or that the district’s response was weak, and did little to alleviate the issues they think contributed to the shooting.
One woman mentioned the district’s response to a social media account started by a high schooler in 2016 that shared videos of fistfights between students at the school. Others spoke — without specifics — of a student’s suicide they said was a result of bullying.
At particular issue was the lack of an official decision by the district to accept an offer of six metal detectors for district schools that was made after the shooting. One speaker presented the board with a petition with hundreds of signatures she said were in support of installing the devices.
School board President J.R. “Rusty” Norman said he’d heard of the donation, but that the administration would consider all its options — and listen to the recommendations of the district’s recently formed security committee — before making some decisions.
In a summary of a security committee meeting released later in the week, the district said metal detectors were being discussed. Those security meetings aren’t open to the general public or the media. Members include educators, parents and law enforcement officers chosen by the district. The free metal detectors could be installed by August if the committee determines them to be a top priority, the district said.
The board has made some security-related decisions, including providing funding for 10 new police officers and security guards, as well as for weapons and vehicles for those new employees to use.
Board members stayed silent during the public comment period, as criticisms were directed at them. That frustrated some people, who said they wanted a more open dialogue about security.
But Norman said he thought it was better to let the parents have their say, even if some of the claims they made were based on what he called “misinformation.”
“We don’t want anyone to feel intimidated,” Norman said. “I don’t want them to feel that they can’t come speak because we’re immediately going to respond with something that redirects it.”
That promise didn’t entirely satisfy parents like Krause, who complained about some of the focus of the meeting.
“You’re voting on buses and police cars, but you’re not saying anything about putting metal detectors in the schools,” he said. “You’re not saying anything about securing the schools. They should have been prepared. They should have had a vote.”