AUSTIN (KXAN) — “If anyone out there thinks this can’t happen in your school, if it happens in a little tiny, sleepy town like Santa Fe, it can happen anywhere. It could happen today.”
Santa Fe parent Kim Morrison delivered strong words of warning during Gov. Abbott’s school safety roundtable. Emotions ran high Thursday as those affected by the recent school shootings in Texas gathered to speak to Abbott and other lawmakers.
Among those invited to the roundtable were the survivors and family members impacted by shootings in Alpine, Sutherland Springs and most recently, Santa Fe.
This was one of three roundtable discussions on school safety to take place over the last week in the aftermath of the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School.
The scene in the packed room was somber as Abbott sat alongside other notable legislators, including Sen. Ted Cruz and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, to listen to powerful stories and suggestions for solutions.
Though the emotions were overwhelming at times, the room saw no shortage of cries for change and even a few direct criticisms of Abbott’s past inaction.
Overwhelmingly, the students, staff and parents demanded increased law enforcement presence in schools.
One Santa Fe Student, Grace Johnson, explained, “Our school police officers, they’re our best friends. We wave at them in the hallway, we fist bump them, they ask us how our days are going — in a way they’re our watchdogs. We need more of them.”
While many recent school shootings have sparked nationwide debate over gun control, that was not the case for those who met with the governor on Thursday. Instead, the focus fell on developing strategies to reduce school shootings that did not involve increased gun control.
A variety of suggestions were brought forward over the course of the discussion. This included reinforcing the design of school buildings themselves through limiting entries and exits to the building, using metal detectors and installing an active shooter alarm system.
People in the meeting also discussed ways to provide more mental health resources for students and new programs for students to report suspicious activity.
They even played with the idea of arming teachers, a measure that appeared to be well-received by most of the participants.
It remains to be seen whether these roundtables will evolve into policy change, but the atmosphere in the room was hopeful. Abbott is expected to reveal his plan within the next few weeks, but many questions remain about specific policy and where he’ll find funding.