Ahead of the forthcoming school year, a number of parents in Uvalde, Texas, are taking their children out of public school, opting instead for online and private education following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary, according to a new report from the Texas Tribune.
Concerned parents in the rural, working class community, like Adam Martinez, have pursued virtual learning or homeschooling in lieu of sending their children back into their previous classrooms. Martinez, a father of two, has chosen to enroll his children in the online curriculum that Uvalde is offering. Though he was initially hesitant, Martinez said a conversation with his children, who remain frightened after the shooting, affirmed the decision.
“I was telling my son, ‘There’s gonna be a tall fence, and they’re gonna have state troopers on all the locations,’” Martinez recalled. “And he told me, ‘Who cares if there’s cops? They’re not going to do anything anyway, they’re scared.’”
Another parent, Angeli Gomez, whose two children were present at Robb Elementary the day of the shooting and who was handcuffed while attempting to get answers from law enforcement about her children, told the Tribune that she and 19 other women are considering enrolling their children in free homeschooling taught by a San Marcos woman.
Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced that 30 additional police officers will be hired for the school district and an additional security presence will be instituted at the behest of Uvalde superintendent Hal Harrell to ensure that students, parents, and faculty feel safer as the start of the new school year approaches.
Yet nearly 400 officers were on the scene of the May 24 shooting, and many loitered in a hallway while the shooter continuously fired rounds. It’s worth repeating that law enforcement didn’t confront and kill the gunman until well over an hour after he arrived at Robb Elementary, leaving 19 children and two teachers to be murdered and countless others injured in the interim.
“As a new school year begins, we must ensure students, parents, and all dedicated school personnel can look forward to new opportunities to learn and grow,” Abbott said in a statement. “Texas will keep working to provide all available support and resources to the Uvalde community as they continue to heal.”
But distrust with Uvalde’s public schools lingers, and some parents are turning to private alternatives. Sacred Heart Catholic School’s principal, Joseph Olan, said there’s been a marked interest in his school; last year, 55 new students enrolled. This year, there are 120 incoming students, and Olan said he expects that number to grow.
However, many parents, like Brianna Gonzales, say they have no option but to keep their children in the classroom. Gonzales, whose husband works out of town and is only home on weekends, said she doesn’t have the time or money to pursue alternatives.
“COVID affected them a lot and I saw how that affected their education and I don’t want them to have to go to virtual again,” she told the Tribune. “I don’t have the time of day to do things with them for school so I feel like I would be failing them on that part of their education.”
Though unable to pursue a private education or homeschool her children, Gonzales has still taken gut-wrenching security measures far beyond her families’ means. Among the new school supplies she purchased for her children are cellphones—an item she said she never anticipated buying for her 10-year-old—and even more bleak, bulletproof backpacks, which can cost up to hundreds of dollars. Apart from stretching their budget, for parents like Gonzales, all that’s left to do is trust that Abbott’s $4.5 million worth of security measures will be enough to protect their children.
“I just didn’t see what the point of going to another district would do for me,” said Gonzales. “If it could happen here, it could happen there.”