The Santa Fe Independent School District is suddenly finding itself with a surplus of donated metal detectors after a shooting at its high school that left 10 people dead and wounded more than a dozen others. But it’s not clear whether the district plans to make metal detectors a part of its upgraded security strategy.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced on Monday he would donate up to 10 metal detectors — a gift worth about $30,000 — to the school district to help “update the security of its entryways,” he said.
Immediately after the the shooting, Patrick said schools should do more to secure their entryways.
“On the day of shooting in Santa Fe, I made securing the entrances and exits to our schools a top priority,” Patrick said. “Santa Fe parents have asked for immediate action to the entrances to their schools and I want to make sure that if the Santa Fe ISD School Board wants to install metal detectors, they can do.”
Whether the school district installs the devices at the entrances at any of its schools is still undecided. On Monday afternoon, the school district thanked Patrick for his “generous offer,” but said it had not decided about the use of metal detectors.
Patrick’s offer, which he said was being made in partnership with Garland-based Garrett Metal Detectors, is at least the second offer of free metal detectors organizations have made to the district.
Steve Novakovich, the CEO of Garrett Metal Detectors, said his company was motivated to make the donation because its founder, Eleanor Garrett was a former Texas school teacher.
“We have a heart for the kids and their safety,” Novakovich said.
The company first contacted the Santa Fe school district last week, he said. The school district hasn’t responded, he said.
The company provides security consulting to customers around the world, including at this year’s World Cup in Russia, he said.
Reviewing security plans isn’t always a quick process and he wasn’t surprised the district didn’t immediately answer, he said.
“It may not be a simple decision,” Novakovich said. “We’re going to stay in a holding pattern until we hear from them.”
Another company, American Guard Services, also has offered to donate six metal detectors to the district.
On Monday, American Guard Services, which is headquartered in Los Angeles, had not heard back from the school district about its offer, said Keith Dove, the company’s director of compliance and quality control.
“If they accept it, we’ll be more than happy to provide it,” Dove said. “It’s still available, it’s just a matter of we can’t do anything without their permission.”
The six metal detectors are valued at around $24,000, Dove said.
American Guard Services made the offer because some of its employees live in Santa Fe, Dove said. The company provides some security at the Port of Galveston.
After the May 18 shooting, American Guard Services also provided security guards to the Santa Fe Independent School District on the final two days of classes, Dove said.
That decision will come after the district’s recently formed safety committee makes security recommendations to the district’s board of trustees. The committee will next meet on July 12, when it’s expected to finalize its first recommendations.
“The installation of metal detectors will require an assessment of the schools to determine the equipment and training recommended to operate metal detectors,” the district said.
If the district accepts the offers, the metal detectors could be installed before the start of school in August, the district said.
Some Santa Fe parents have said they’re frustrated the district hasn’t yet accepted the metal detectors, devices they say could help prevent people from taking weapons into schools.
Few district officials have said they are against the installation of metal detectors, but accepting the devices would come with costs, officials have said. To be effective, the detectors need to be monitored by employees at whatever entrance they’re installed.
The district already has decided to expand the size of its security force by adding five new police officers and five new security guards.
In announcing the donation on Monday, Patrick also pledged to advance legislation that would create a matching fund for other schools that want to install metal detectors or use wands to screen people entering the school.
“We know we need a comprehensive plan to secure our schools statewide and there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy,” Patrick said. “Each district will decide what’s best for them.”
Patrick also pledged funding for new emergency exit doors that lock from the outside, and to provide more funding for the Texas School Marshal program, which allows school staff members to arm themselves with guns after being trained.
A Texas Senate committee on school safety created by Patrick after the Santa Fe shooting is expected to produce a report with more possible legislative changes by the end of July, Patrick said.