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After Santa Fe massacre, Texas shooting survivors give lawmakers policy solutions

A week after a student killed 10 people in Santa Fe High School, his classmates and teachers convened at the Capitol to discuss possible solutions for preventing future school shootings at the last of three roundtables on school safety Gov. Greg Abbott held this week.

Santa Fe High School student Grace Johnson speaks during the third day of roundtable discussions on gun and school safety, held by Gov. Greg Abbott at the Capitol in Austin on May 24, 2018.

Last Friday, Santa Fe High School senior Grace Johnson walked into the hallway from the band practice room, where she had been taking a nap, and saw one of her classmates get shot and fall to the ground.

Almost a week after the massacre in her Houston-area school, Johnson stood in the Texas Capitol Thursday and gave Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas lawmakers recommendations about how to prevent future school shootings. Johnson was among dozens of other students, parents and educators impacted by recent shootings at Santa Fe High School, Sutherland Springs' First Baptist Church last November, and Alpine High School in 2016, at the last of three roundtable discussions convened by Abbott to discuss school safety and gun violence.

By the end of a four-hour discussion, the second half of which was open to the media, many in the room agreed that they wanted more counselors, armed teachers and police officers in their schools. But they disagreed on other solutions, such as whether schools should be required to install metal detectors or whether students should have an app to report unsettling behavior from their peers.

Abbott said he would take the feedback from the roundtables and work on an action plan, but he did not give a timeline on when he would release it. "You are going to see solutions — plural," he told the families.

Johnson told Abbott she and her classmates wrote him after their school was locked down for hours following a shooting scare in February. "We didn't get anything back. We didn't even get an acknowledgement," she said. "Gun shots went off, and we weren't surprised."

She gave a long list of solutions for school safety: increasing school security, arming teachers, randomly checking students' bags and increasing the number of school counselors.

But she opposed the idea of forcing students to pass through a metal detector every time they wanted to go into the building. "Do we push back our education because we need to get 1,500 kids through a metal detector?" she said.

Some of the parents and educators in the room suggested creating uniform requirements for outfitting school buildings with updated alarm and safety systems.

With metal detectors, "are we treating kids like prisoners?" asked Tyler Morrison, a sophomore at Santa Fe High School.

"We're keeping the bad guys out," a couple of parents and teachers called back.

"This is not a gun thing," said Jay Horn, the parent of a student who is in the hospital after injuries from the shooting. "Evil's going to happen with anything." He got a loud round of applause.

Horn said Santa Fe ISD school officials should be held accountable for the shooting because they chose not to make use of a Texas law that allows schools to train and arm some of its teachers.

After Wednesday's three-hour closed-door discussion with advocates on both sides of the gun debate, Abbott told the press he could support a few gun-related regulations, such as improving background checks and "red flag" warnings, which would allow authorities to take guns away from people deemed to be dangerous.

In a Thursday opinion piece in USA Today, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued that "gun control is a waste of time" and would not have saved Santa Fe High School's victims since the shooter also was armed with bombs.

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Criminal justice Public education Gun rights Guns In Texas