Dallas ISD is implementing new security measures and promising even more in response to a Saturday-night shooting inside its showcase gymnasium, Ellis Davis Field House, that left an 18-year-old former student badly injured.
Although the district already had a policy only allowing clear bags into its athletic venues and had ample security on site Saturday, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said Monday that a walk-through metal detector located at the complex was not in use at the time of the game.
The district will now amp up its use of metal detectors and institute a temporary ban on all bags as games resume this week, as DISD struggles to find the right measure of security at its extracurricular events.
“We cannot absolve ourselves of the responsibility, because it happened on our watch, on our property,” Hinojosa said.
A 15-year-old Dallas ISD student has been arrested in connection with the shooting, which happened after a fight broke out during a highly anticipated boys’ basketball game between South Oak Cliff and Kimball high schools.
The student -- who wasn’t attending either school, according to district officials -- turned himself in at Dallas police headquarters this weekend and has been charged with aggravated assault.
According to Hinojosa, the 18-year-old victim suffered “very significant” injuries; neither Dallas ISD police or Dallas police would provide additional information.
A DISD police officer was also wounded during the fight, grazed by a bullet fragment after responding to the fight. She is expected to fully recover, Hinojosa said.
Names of those involved in the shooting have not been released.
The incident happened near the end of the third quarter of the basketball game between the two state-ranked teams, close to one of the concession stands in the concourse where students and fans tend to congregate, said Dallas ISD Police Chief John Lawton.
“Some of the juveniles were fighting at the time,” Lawton said. “And we were in the process of escorting a couple out. At that point, gunshots rang out -- and the officers went into action.”
Four DISD police officers and five security guards were on site for the game, Lawton said. That level of police presence is more than normal for a high school basketball game, but was in place given the high-profile nature of the rivalry between the schools and large crowd of 650 people, Hinojosa said.
The superintendent thanked the quick response by the district’s police department on scene.
“It could have been much worse,” Hinojosa said.
‘We’ve got to do more'
Even so, DISD finds itself at a crossroads now that Dallas’ surge in gun violence has crept inside one of its facilities.
During a Monday morning news conference, Hinojosa -- a student, teacher, coach and now senior administrator in the district -- seemed of two minds on how much to amplify the district’s security plans.
“As seriously as we have taken [security concerns], it wasn’t enough,” Hinojosa said. “And now we’ve got to do more.”
For this week only, DISD will ban bags, purses and backpacks to district sporting events. But that step, according to deputy chief of operations Sherry Christian, is only a stopgap measure. The district already had a policy of only allowing clear bags into sporting events at any district athletic facility, including Ellis Davis, launched in September 2019. More procedures will be codified in the coming days and weeks, Hinojosa said.
The district’s existing metal detectors will also be utilized, until the district can purchase more updated hardware over the next few years.
There was a walk-through metal detector at the Jesse Owens Memorial Sports Complex, which includes Ellis Davis Field House and Kincaide Stadium. But the machine wasn’t in use on Saturday. It was in storage at the football stadium, Lawton said.
Fans did go through metal detectors at Kincaide Stadium this season, Christian said.
The district is currently in the process of accounting for all of its wand-style metal detectors and older walk-through models that had been put into storage, Christian added. Over the past several years, DISD had pivoted away from using walk-through metal detectors at many of its secondary campuses -- opting for different security protocols.
On Tuesday, when district basketball games resume across the city, fans would be subject to some sort of screening -- either by wand or walk-through detector, Hinojosa said.
DISD is in the process of getting quotes on a more sophisticated weapons detection system -- ViewScan by IPVideo Corporation -- that provides security guards and officers information on where a hidden object might be on a person’s body, Christian said. The district had identified some money from the state’s recent school safety bill that could help in the purchase, she added.
Hinojosa said that in the upcoming 2020 bond, details of which will be released in the next two months, the district would “highly prioritize safety and security.”
He did, however, add a caveat.
“I don’t want to get into hardening facilities, because crime happens -- and sometimes it spills over,” Hinojosa said. “When you are going to a game, you want to be able to enjoy the game. But these are different times. This is happening in our entire community. So, at least in the short order, we need to be able to have the best equipment to be able to harden some of these facilities that need to be better controlled going forward, at least until we manage through this crisis.”
‘Dropped the ball’
Justin Kurland, a researcher at the University of Southern Mississippi’s National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security, said that school districts and legislators across the country “have really dropped the ball” on how to properly address security concerns in the after-school time, either on campus after the final bell rings or at extracurricular activities like sporting events.
“We’re seeing a really -- in my estimation -- disturbing trend here, and we really need schools to wake up to understand that their responsibility for providing safety and security doesn’t stop at the end of the school day,” he said.
In his analysis of data collected by the the Naval Postgraduate School -- considered one of the most comprehensive catalogs of school shootings in the country -- Kurland found that 2019 was the first year over a 50-year span where more school shootings took place in the period after school than during the school day. After the final bell, 42 shootings happened at a school or a school event in 2019, he said, accounting for 58% of all school shootings over the year.
Roughly half of those after-school shootings happened at an interscholastic athletics event, almost exclusively boys basketball or football games, Kurland said.
In 2017, three school-aged teenagers were wounded during a shooting near Ellis Davis Field House after a group of fans were asked to leave a football game between Lancaster and South Oak Cliff at Kincaide Stadium. The shooting, however, happened at a nearby gas station, not on DISD property.
Hinojosa said during his news conference that in his four decades as a teacher and administrator, there was a perceived understanding between rivals that any type of altercation would happen off-campus, and not at school facilities.
But this “truce” didn’t exist anymore, he said.
“That truce is over,” Hinojosa said.
Kurland’s group offers a 190-page “best practices guide,” detailing everything from risk and threat assessment to game day planning to crowd dynamics.
In less than a month, the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security is hosting a three-day summit on the challenges of security at interscholastic athletic events in McKinney, starting Feb. 4.
‘Everybody’s numb to it’
About three hours after the news conference, Kimball and South Oak Cliff resumed their basketball game behind closed doors at Forester Field House in Pleasant Grove.
About 60 people -- media members, district employees and a few fans, including DISD trustee Joyce Foreman -- watched as S.O.C. forced a Kimball turnover in the game’s final seconds to hold on for a 56-54 win.
After the game, outside of his team’s locker room, South Oak Cliff coach James Mays II called the suspended game one of the most surreal moments in his 22 years at the school.
He said he wasn’t “shook” from Saturday’s gunfire at Ellis Davis; his time on the security ministry at Friendship West Baptist Church had prepared him for an active shooter situation.
When the first shot rang out, Mays got low and looked for the shooter. Some of his players got behind him, and then found shelter behind the scorer’s table. His assistant coaches shielded other players.
“Unfortunately, living in (zip code) 75216, sometimes -- not all the time -- but sometimes you may run into incidents and things like that,” Mays said. “It’s not out of the normal. We have a great community, but it’s an issue that we have to deal with in our community.”
Senior Kylon Owens, a 17-year-old center and the school’s “Mr. South Oak Cliff”, agreed with his coach’s assessment.
Owens was on the court when he heard the first shot. He froze.
“I’m shocked that it happened in a basketball gym, but I’m not shocked by the gun shots,” he said. “Everybody’s numb to it.”