Human Error Allegedly Led to DISD School Shooting

Wilmer-Hutchins High School
Wilmer-Hutchins High School | Image by Fox 4

A shooting that occurred at Wilmer-Hutchins High School in South Dallas on April 12 that resulted in one student being injured may have been avoidable, according to school district police.

Ja’kerian Rhodes-Ewing, a 17-year-old student, walked into the high school while in possession of a gun, as covered previously by The Dallas Express. Dallas ISD has a clear backpack policy, and Wilmer-Hutchins has both metal detectors and wands, raising the question of how the student was able to carry a gun into the school.

Albert Martinez, chief of Dallas ISD’s police department, told The Dallas Morning News that human error and systems failure allowed for the shooting to take place. He said that although the metal detector did go off when Rhodes-Ewing entered the school, “there wasn’t a challenge. There weren’t the secondary steps that should have happened. And that’s our concern.”

Since then, school officials have retrained staff on proper protocols for backpack searches and metal detectors and added more staff for arrival and dismissal times.

The shooting led to a student walkout where around 40 students protested the lax security on their campus, as covered by DX.

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

HB 3, signed into law on June 13, 2023, by Gov. Greg Abbott, requires every school campus to have an armed security guard, starting with the 2023-2024 school year.

Dallas ISD has had difficulty complying with this new law due to a shortage of officers and a purported lack of taxpayer money to spend. Last August, at the beginning of the school year, the district was short 167 armed officers, per Fox 4 KDFW.

“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.

Safety has been an ongoing issue at Dallas ISD, as there were two gun-related incidents in the 2022-2023 school year, per DX.

One incident occurred in March 2023 in the parking lot between Thomas Jefferson High School and Walnut Hill International Leadership Academy. A student was shot in the arm by someone in a passing car shortly after school had dismissed for the day. One of the occupants in the car was later identified as a student at the school. Elizdale blamed the incident on violent crime in Dallas.

In October 2022, a student brought a gun to John Carpenter Elementary School, where it “accidentally” discharged; luckily, no one was hurt in that incident.

Alongside the safety issue at Dallas ISD, student achievement is another area of concern.

The district had a total enrollment of 143,430 students for the 2021-2022 school year, per the latest Texas Education Agency accountability report.

Only 41% of students met their grade level or above on the STAAR test, meaning that more than half of the students were not where they needed to be academically. Additionally, the district logged an on-time graduation rate of 81.1% that school year. The district’s dropout rate is 4.5%, nearly double the state-wide average of 2.4%.

As previously reported by DX, respondents to a survey indicated that they felt the troubled district suffered from mismanagement.

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