Jefferson High School parents weren’t willing to wait for police to determine if their children were safe after reports of gunfire at the Texas school on Tuesday. Instead, the parents fought with police outside the school, trying to gain access to the students inside.
Police determined that the shooting reports were false, but the parents’ reaction is proof of rising fears and panic nearly four months after the school shooting in Uvalde that killed 19 students and two teachers. In the months since the Uvalde shooting, the public learned that responding police officers waited more than an hour before entering a classroom to apprehend the shooter, who was barricaded in the room full of students during that time.
Hundreds of parents were unwilling to wait for police to act earlier this week when they swarmed Jefferson High School in San Antonio to ensure their children’s safety, according to a report by the San Antonio Express-News. One parent even cut his arm trying to break through a school window in an attempt to reach the students. According to the article, several parents argued with police officers and some were detained.
Officers received calls of a possible shooting inside a classroom at the school around 1 p.m. on Tuesday. The school went into full lockdown, preventing anyone from leaving the classrooms, and only police were able to enter the school. The action caused panic in parents, who congregated outside the school before the students were released.
During that time, San Antonio Independent School District Police Chief Johnny Reyes said his officers quickly learned no shooting happened but were conducting a methodical search of each classroom to ensure there was no danger.
“Our department and (the) San Antonio Police Department established there was no shooting, but then we had to do a methodical search room by room with our strike teams,” Reyes told the Express-News. “We went to the place where they said the shooting had occurred and we were able to quickly establish that no shooting had happened.”
Parents flocked to the school well before the district sent a message nearly an hour after police first responded to the school. Some students sent urgent texts to their parents alerting them of the lockdown before the district issued its message.
“Parents, we wanted to immediately alert you that there was a report of a shooting, but no confirmation at this time that one has occurred,” the district’s message said. “Jefferson High School is on lockdown with a heavy police presence actively investigating.”
Nearly 90 police officers from the San Antonio Independent School District and the San Antonio Police Department responded, but the number brought little comfort to parents who were aware of the police errors in the Uvalde shooting.
“People are scared, it’s understandable,” Reyes was quoted by the Express-News. “But the main thing here to learn from moving forward is: Parents, be patient, we are going to ensure your kids are safe, but be patient with us. Let us go through our procedures and it’s going to work out.”
One parent said he understood the actions of other parents desperate to ensure their children were safe.
“We are overwhelmed with fear of the worst,” Pete Vela told the San Antonio Express-News as he and his wife waited outside the school for their son.
Vela said he left his job and arrived at the school as quickly as he could.
“Ultimately, if there was somebody in there, then I don’t blame the parents for wanting to get in, especially after what happened in Uvalde,” he said to the newspaper.
Following the threat, SAISD issued a statement on its website. The statement reminded parents of the district’s safety protocols.
“It is important to know that for the safety of all involved, when a school is locked down, students and staff cannot be released until officers determine that the threat has been resolved, give clearance, and lift the lockdown,” the statement said. “Safety-first is the procedure we followed yesterday, and will continue to follow, so that you and your loved ones remain safe. We encourage families and staff to allow officers to follow the best-practices protocols they have in place. To aid this process, in the future, we will deploy district staff to the campus grounds to keep families on the scene informed of what is happening and the status of the reunification process.”
Newsweek reached out to the San Antonio Independent School District for comment.
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