Before classes started at John Carpenter Elementary School on October 13, a firearm was discharged in the school cafeteria.
A student at the school reportedly brought a gun onto campus. The weapon “accidentally” went off, according to DISD officials.
No one was killed or injured, and classes were held on time. District police officers are said to be investigating.
The discharge of a gun on the grounds of an elementary school apparently did not disrupt the normal flow of the school day, according to the information disclosed about the incident by DISD communications staffers.
As previously reported in The Dallas Express, newly-hired Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde held a press conference back in August announcing DISD’s new “Comprehensive Safety Plan,” in large part a recapitulation of recommendations and directives issued by Gov. Greg Abbott, like door safety checks, annual campus security evaluations, and all-staff threat assessment training to ensure that everyone from substitute teachers to principals know what to do in the event of a violent attack from within or without.
Still, even with its colossal $2.2 billion budget this academic year, it appears the district could not prevent the incident from occurring.
While it is unclear whether campus or district administrators made the call about continuing with the school day, some parents immediately rushed to the campus to collect their children.
Brandy Fields, the mother of a John Carpenter Elementary fifth-grader named Abbey, told WFAA, “I didn’t know what to think, what to feel … Just came over immediately. She’s safe.”
Abbey told the news outlet that a friend of hers relayed that a kid had brought a gun to class and was “showing it to everybody.”
“And while they were playing with it, it went off,” she said.
For an elementary school student to allegedly show a number of students a firearm on campus without staff, faculty, or administrators catching wind and intervening led some parents to wonder if DISD is doing enough to keep elementary school campuses safe.
Crystal Hernandez, a DISD parent with one child in middle school and another in high school, told WFAA, “Give these kids the same security that middle school and high school are receiving. They need it.”
Hernandez was likely referring to some of the security features and protocols the district exempted elementary schools from when it implemented its Comprehensive Safety Plan, which included metal detectors and requiring students to use only clear or mesh backpacks, as previously reported in The Dallas Express.
A district spokesperson told WFAA that DISD would make clear backpacks available for John Carpenter Elementary, but it is unclear whether that means they would be mandatory.
Even still, Michael Dorn, a former police officer and executive director for Safe Haven International, a K-12 school safety center, weighed in on the idea back when the policy was first announced, stating, “Clear bookbags are a well-intended but relatively ineffective measure.”
He explained that it would not be difficult for kids to stash a weapon in a hollowed-out book, clothing, or even in a tennis shoe.
Still, DISD said it stood behind its clear backpack mandate as one of several measures intended to improve school security, according to a news release.
DISD also said that it will, at some point, purchase 100 metal detector wands for deployment at district elementary schools, per WFAA.
Hernandez explained to the news outlet that her middle schooler had just started the sixth grade this semester, but she opted to put him in virtual learning because of her apprehension over safety.
“We want to go back in person, but when you hear about all the stuff that continues to happen … guns discharging at elementary schools,” Hernandez said to WFAA. “We’re not safe. We’re still not safe.”
While no one was injured in Thursday’s accidental discharge, DISD campuses have seen a number of gun-related incidents in recent years.
Multiple gunshots were fired beside the football field of Woodrow Wilson High when a fight among students escalated in March.
An adult brought a firearm to a North Dallas High parking lot and shot at another adult back in October 2020.
And in 2018, a woman was using Skyline High’s running track at around 5:30 a.m. when someone approached and shot her in the ankle.
The Dallas Express reached out to the district’s media relations team and asked if, one day out from the incident, the district is prepared to state whether any criminal charges will be filed or disciplinary action taken by the campus or district.
We also asked whether it was DISD authorities or John Carpenter Elementary administrators who made the decision to carry on the rest of the school day as usual.
No response was received by the time of publication.