Community Concerned About Campus Safety in Dallas ISD

Student walkout at Wilmer-Hutchins
Student walkout at Wilmer-Hutchins to protest lax security on campus. | Image by NBC 5 DFW

Campus safety has become a critical issue for the Dallas Independent School District community in the wake of the shooting at Wilmer-Hutchins High School last week.

This week, a student walkout was organized at Wilmer-Hutchins to protest purportedly lax security on campus. A day later, a community meeting was held by Dallas ISD trustee Maxie Johnson at the New Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church. The primary message at both events was to look at the latest firearm incident on a Dallas ISD campus as a wake-up call.

As covered by The Dallas Express, a 17-year-old student named Ja’kerian Rhodes-Ewing was allegedly able to bring a gun onto campus despite the presence of metal detectors and a clear backpack policy. As the result of what police believe to have been a private dispute, he allegedly shot another student in the left upper thigh, resulting in a non-life-threatening injury.

Rhodes-Ewing was arrested and booked into Dallas County jail on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and unlawful carrying of a weapon in a prohibited place in lieu of a $200,000 bond.

Classes at Wilmer-Hutchins resumed on Monday; however, around 40 students arranged a walkout and protested in the school’s parking lot. Speaking to reporters, they explained that they felt unsafe in school and demanded action from district officials to provide them with protection.

“They have all these administrators, all these people we don’t know, standing in the hallways trying to make us ‘feel better,’ trying to make us feel safe,” Zakerrah Tyeskie, a student, told The Dallas Morning News. “It’s not doing anything at all.”

Several students claimed that the security measures put into place at the school had not been consistently enforced prior to the shooting.

“We have whole metal detectors, we have wands, but now they want to finally use [them] after something bad happens,” said another student named Yanely Gamino.

The attendees of the community meeting — consisting of district officials, staff, parents, students, and alumni — held for two hours the following day voiced similar questions and concerns.

“I went to Hutch. I was scared for my life every day. Everyday,” Tobi Collins said, per CBS News Texas. “Every day until I graduated and I walked across the stage.”

A fellow alumna, Sha Brewer, asked the attendees an important question that was ultimately left unanswered: “[W]hat are we going to do to fix this problem?”

Although Texas lawmakers passed new laws to boost school security across the state, many public school officials have quickly cited budgetary concerns regarding putting the new measures into place.

For instance, since last September, state law requires an armed security officer to be stationed at every public school in the state. As covered by The Dallas Express, Dallas ISD struggled to comply with this mandate.

“The feasibility of [having a full-time armed security officer at every DISD campus] is not possible,” Dallas ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said at the time, according to NBC 5 DFW.

While a commissioned security officer has a starting salary of $39,000, armed security officers with a valid Texas Peace Officer License earn nearly $61,000 in their first year. The state allocates $15,000 to each public school campus and $10 per student for security. However, some grant opportunities are available through the state and the federal government.

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