CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — On Tuesday, the CCISD Police Department responded to reports of a gun at Hamlin Middle School. This was the fifth incident of a gun on campus at Corpus Christi schools since the start of the school year in August.
On Aug. 22, two different students were arrested for having guns at Moody High School. Just a day later, administrators found a gun in the backpack of a student at Los Encinos Elementary School. On Aug. 31, a four-year-old student at John F. Kennedy Elementary School, a school in West Oso ISD, was found with a loaded handgun on campus. Last week, Calallen High School went on lockdown after a report of a student with a handgun.
In each instance, school officials and police officers had a protocol to follow when doing their investigation and sending out information to the public.
“It depends on how the call comes in. If it’s a person brandishing [a weapon], it’s a lockdown. If it’s someone who may have one secreted, we’ll go to where the person is, we don’t want to lose the element of surprise, because if they’re not acting, we don’t want to trigger them to act,” said Kirby Warnke, the CCISD Police Chief.
Conrado Garcia, the West Oso ISD superintendent, said officials need to verify information before they pass it along to parents.
“Time is not on our side, we have to react quickly,” Garcia said. “At the same time, you have families out there, and the staff, worried about, ‘are we safe?’ So how much information can you give out, that’s the key.”
WOISD and CCISD both use notification systems to call, text, and/or email parents with information. Garcia said he can’t be too hasty to send the information out to parents.
“I can’t deal with it from an emotional side, I have to deal with it factually, I can’t put information out that’s not true,“ he said.
When information is learned, officials make the decision to put campuses on lockdown or lockout (referred to as “secure” at CCISD). A lockdown means students and staff stay in their classrooms, locking the door and shutting off the lights, trying to make as little noise as possible. A lockout, or secure, means the schools continue with their regular schedules, but no one is allowed in or out of the building.
Garcia said one issue when the district calls for a lockdown or lockout, parents will come to the school hoping to pick their kids up.
“Parents come immediately, and they want their child, who can blame them?” he said. “Once that place is secured, that building, we can’t let people in.”
Another issue Garcia and Warnke see: parents hearing rumors about what is happening at the school, and sharing that information, or posting it on social media, when it may not be factually correct.
“Don’t put it on Facebook that says, ‘I heard that someone said that this is what they were told,’ because that’s not going to do anything other than create more fear,” Warnke said.
Warnke said the mantra ‘see something, say something’ the district has pushed is working, with people sharing information that led to multiple weapons being taken off CCISD campuses this school year.
“Eventually we want to get to the point that they’re not there, and that’s the goal; creating a culture of safety where everyone is an integral part of keeping the campus safe,” he said.