(Seguin) — News about a gun being fired on a Seguin ISD school bus sent shockwaves across the community on Tuesday. People want to know how the gun ended up on the bus, and what more can be done to prevent these kinds of situations from occurring in the future. Those are the same questions and concerns being raised by district officials, who say that school safety needs to be a priority for everyone in the community.
Seguin ISD Superintendent Matthew Gutierrez says they do not believe that the Jefferson Avenue Elementary School student intended to harm someone with the gun, and they believe that the gun went off accidentally. But that doesn’t change the fact that this student was bringing a gun to school. Dr. Gutierrez says the school will do its part to make sure its campuses are safe, but this is also really a time for us all to look at what more we can do to prevent things like them from happening again.
“This is Texas. Many of our parents own guns, and it is so important to ensure gun safety in your home, because not only are you jeopardizing the safety of your own child, but potentially the safety of dozens — if not, hundreds of others. I want to encourage all parents to ensure that guns are locked away safely, and kept away from children because oftentimes children see guns as toys and don’t know any better. But unfortunately, we live in a world where tragic events happen on almost a daily basis and there are times when students have access to weapons at home and could potentially want to cause harm. So, my request and plea to parents everywhere, is to keep your guns and all forms of weapons locked away and safe from children,” said Gutierrez.
Dr. Gutierrez says they are already looking at other steps that the district can take to keep kids safer. He says as a result of this incident, the district may reconsider its decision to not include elementary schools in its clear-backpack policy. It’s a policy that’s already in place at the district’s middle and high school campuses.
Gutierrez says they will continue to provide staff training and support so that safety and security stays top of mind for everyone. He says they also want to continue to engage the community on this topic, because everyone needs to be a part this effort.
“We want to ensure that safety continues to be a priority. We want to encourage our parents to entrust the schools with their children — whether it’s on the bus, it’s at school, or it’s at a school wide event. You know, we’ve been very fortunate in Seguin ISD that part of Bond 2022, our community voted for and supported our $132 million bond (package), in which $15 million was allocated to safety. And so, we’re making safety enhancements by the way of fencing around the perimeter of our buildings, (and) we’re looking at mass weapon detection systems. But what I want to ensure and stress to our parents is that our drivers and our staff members are going to continue to be vigilant. They’re going to be talking to students. We’re going to be talking to students about weapons, and if you hear or see anything to please say something, and we’re going to continue to stress that. We’re going to encourage our parents to also have those conversations with their children — if they hear about a gun, if they see a gun, regardless of whether it’s a water gun or any type of gun, to say something,” said Gutierrez.
The bus driver sprang into action once the gun went off, and his efforts made sure that the gun was secured and that it could not go off again. His reaction made a difference in this case. But going forward, Dr. Gutierrez says we have to do more than just wait fior a situation to occur and for us to react to it. He says it’s going to be important for everyone to recognize that we all have a responsibility to do what needs to done to keep our kids safe.
“It’s going to take a community-wide effort. It takes a village to raise a child and the school can’t do it alone. We cannot do it alone. We can’t have the bus driver do it alone, or the teacher and the principal. We have to have parents partnering with us to ensure that the kids in our community and the staff in our community are safe,” said Gutierrez.
The legislature recently addressed school safety by requiring that each school in Texas have an armed person on campus. Dr. Gutierrez says they are working with the Seguin Police Department to try to meet that requirement, but it has been a challenge. He says finding 13 armed officers for each campus everyday isn’t just personnel challenge, but it’s also a funding problem as well. He says more funding for school safety should also be part of this solution.
“These requirements are coming from the state, but they’re not pouring in additional dollars to support us to staff with security (and) mental health support. We’re fortunate in Seguin to have a grant to be able to have a mental health team to be at Jefferson right away. But that grant is going to expire. So, I’m also pleading with our state representatives and senators to do something to help schools. We are…considering and taking a resolution to our board of trustees next week to look at (this issue). Because we can’t staff an officer at every campus, which is 13, we’re looking at the possibility of a guardian or school marshal program, because we want to make sure that every campus is equipped to respond in a timely way should there be any type of occurrence,” said Gutierrez.
Dr. Gutierrez says while he is encouraging everyone to come together on this issue, he knows that the district itself has to continue to make sure that its faculty, staff and students are well-trained and prepared for any possible situation. He says the district has already made school safety and security a priority, but it will also continue to do more to make sure they are ready for any threat.
“I think we all learn from events that occur. Whether it’s something that occurs unfortunately, like the tragic event that happened in Uvalde, we learned from that and we put together a safety task force that met over the course of the summer of 2022 to develop recommendations for the school district. I think now as a result of this incident, we are going to put in place new measures on our buses and enhance the level of training that we provide. We already provide an extensive amount of training to our bus drivers, just as we do to our teachers. You will find in the summer or during the school year on professional learning days — we’ll have transportation in one of these rooms learning about safety protocols. We’re going to continue to fine tune the learning that is in place for our transportation drivers, and a lot of our buses have safety monitors to ensure that they are equipped with the skills and the knowledge to be able to respond and take proactive measures,” said Gutierrez.
Seguin Police Chief Jason Brady says his department is working with the district to help provide a solution to the security needs for each campus. His department is also now leading the investigation into Tuesday’s shooting incident.