Despite a last-ditch effort, including a petition with almost 1,900 signatures, parents of students attending Clear Creek Independent School District were unable this week to persuade officials to approve installing metal detectors at schools. But they vowed to continue the fight.
The school district’s board of trustees on Monday approved several new measures, including hiring 30 new positions, revising the dress code and conducting more shooting drills to increase campus security, but some parents were disappointed metal detectors weren’t among the new security measures, they said.
“They would be another part of the solution,” said Lara Forde, one of the parents proposing metal detectors, before Monday’s meeting. “Mental health and counseling isn’t going to stop people from coming into the school Day 1. It’s going to take time to work. This would help faster.”
But metal detectors weren’t recommended by a security committee formed to review district policies after the May 18 shooting at Santa Fe High School in which 10 people died and 13 others were wounded, and ultimately it was those recommendations trustees approved, said Elaina Polsen, spokeswoman for the district.
“The group, which is made up of parents, law enforcement officers, teachers and staff and faith-based leaders came to a firm consensus to not bring forward a recommendation to install metal detectors,” Polsen said.
The committee also heard feedback from a public meeting, but that didn’t change its position, Polsen said.
Committee members instead recommended adding 15 additional Galveston County Sheriff’s Department school liaison officers for $1.2 million and hiring 15 additional secondary student counselors for $975,000, among other items.
“In the end, the committee felt adding 15 additional police officers, 15 student support counselors, enhancing training and prevention techniques and improving security systems would provide a far stronger shield than metal detectors, guardians and marshals,” members of the committee said.
The committee also advised the school district not to implement the controversial marshal or guardian plans in the district. Those plans allow school districts to train and arm teachers and staff.
Clear Creek is among several Galveston County school districts that formed security committees after the Santa Fe shooting. Galveston and Santa Fe, among others, have announced similar committees.
Interest in serving on the committee was high, with more than 800 parents volunteering for the group, which has met five times, officials said.
The final committee consisted of five law enforcement officials, three mental health experts, four students, nine staff members, 15 parents and three faith leaders, officials said.
The group investigated several aspects of school security, including facility improvements, security personnel, student mental health, security training, safety protocols, policies and procedures and communications, board members said.
In addition to increased security and mental health positions, the committee also recommended re-evaluating the district’s dress code — mentioning a trench coat ban specifically — and recommending adding a requirement for students and staff to wear identification badges at all times on campus, said Henry Gonzalez, a member of the committee.
Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the accused shooter in the mass killing at Santa Fe High School, might have been in violation of a school district dress code when he wore a trench coat on campus May 18, according to some accounts. Santa Fe officials have declined to answer questions about that assertion.
The Santa Fe public school board July 16 voted to accept and install donated metal detectors as part of its effort to increase school security.
The estimated cost for the district to operate the detectors at the high school was about $265,000 for electrical work, facility modifications and parts. Installing the detectors at the junior high school would cost about $265,000, also.
It would cost the district about $615,000 for each of the two elementary schools to install metal detectors. The higher expense is because the building modifications would require permanent changes to the buildings, district officials said.
In addition, personnel to operate the detectors could cost from about $180,000 to about $420,000, not counting benefits, officials said.
Clear Creek parents who are upset the district didn’t consider metal detectors vowed to continue their fight.
“We’re going to keep going,” Forde said. “This issue is important. If you vote based on the research of a committee that didn’t look at the source, then you’ve misrepresented the data.”