On May 24, 2022, an 18-year-old shot and killed 19 elementary school children, two teachers and wounded 17 others in Uvalde, Texas.
A year later, schools in Texas have settled into a new normal. Teachers report that schools keep their interior and exterior doors locked at all times and parents are required to drop their kids off on the curb outside the school without walking them into the building. Security is tight everywhere, with the goal of keeping children safe.
High school senior and incoming BYU freshman Darbi Dixon moved to Castorville, Texas less than a year before the Uvalde school shooting. Dixon heard about the shooting from her friends at school and notifications on Facebook. After the shooting, citizens in Castroville organized a memorial for the victims, throwing flowers into the Medina River in Texas to honor the victims that lost their lives.
“Memorials after the event has happened are a good thing both to comfort the families that have been affected and to show that we want this to stop,” Dixon said.
In 2023, Dixon’s high school only had one entrance to the building available to students and teachers, to help ensure that students would stay safe. Two weeks before the year anniversary of the shooting, the school discouraged students from bringing in backpacks to avoid copycat murders. In spite of the steps taken to increase safety, Dixon does not think it is enough.
“We can deal with the personal inconvenience, but I don’t think it’s enough,” Dixon said. “There’s always a way for people to hurt us.”
BYU freshman Daniel Andersen was about to graduate when the Uvalde shooting occurred. Despite living in Flower Mound, Texas, the news of the tragedy quickly spread across the country, and steps were taken to protect children across Texas.
Andersen said the new rules were stricter than they had been in the past, but his school “had already implemented a number of ideas to prevent school shootings.” Now that Andersen is at BYU, he said he enjoys seeing people in his ward working as security guards here at BYU.
School shootings have become increasingly common over the past several years, and both sides of the political spectrum want to stop it from happening. Some people call for teachers to be armed to defend their students, while others call for increased gun control measures.
“Everyone agrees that this is an awful situation,” Andersen said. “No one wants to be complacent in something like this happening ever again. The remedy is how we disagree.”
BYU alumna Aimee Winward, a teacher at Cypress Elementary School in Cedar Park, Texas, said her job was to protect the children under her care.
“I tell my kids, ‘My top job is to keep you safe.'”
At the beginning of each school year, Winward meets with other teachers in the school to discuss safety drills for the students, ranging from fire drills to hazardous weather. This year, they were given additional instruction in how they should keep their students safe during a lockdown drill.
During these drills, Winward now carries a large chair with her to her hiding spot, just in case she needs to use it to defend her students. When Winward’s husband heard about this, he suggested she get a taser.
Although she has not gotten one, she said, “It’s sad that I have to try to think about those things in order to do my top job to keep my kids safe.”
Marlo Walburger, a mother living in Cedar Park, has two children in elementary school and one in middle school. When the shooting happened, some of her friends pulled their children out of school due to the “devastating” news of the attack, as Walburger described it.
“I think there’s always more that can be done when it deals with the safety of children. They should be our number one priority in the government and in protection,” Walburger said.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the state flag to be at half-staff today to honor the victims of the shooting, and U.S. President Joe Biden will speak from the White House Grand Staircase about the shooting. A moment of silence was also observed in Texas at 11:30 a.m. CDT to remember the victims, survivors and members of the community.