Parents and community members on Thursday shared concerns over safety, security and communication in schools during a town hall hosted by the Mansfield school district.
The town hall, held two weeks after the Oct. 6 shooting at Timberview High School, included a panel of police and district personnel.
The suspect, 18-year-old student Timothy Simpkins, turned himself in the day of the shooting. Four people were injured, including 25-year-old teacher Calvin Pettitt and 15-year-old student Zacchaeus Selby, who was fighting with Simpkins.
During the town hall, Arlington Police Chief Al Jones said the department has been investigating the case. He said detectives have not found evidence of bullying leading up to the shooting, disputing a claim by the Simpkins family that their son had been bullied since starting at Timberview.
“This was not a bullying incident and I just want to take that narrative out of the equation so that we can move forward as a community,” Jones said.
Jones also said he didn’t view the shooting as a typical school shooting because Simpkins seemed to be targeting one person. Some parents who spoke at the town hall disagreed, with one saying teachers and students can experience the same trauma during a random incident.
Other parents expressed concern over communication because of a delay in alerting families about the lockdown following the shooting. But Superintendent Kimberley Cantu said the district’s first priority was to make sure the students and district employees were safe before sending out notifications.
A couple students also asked about WiFi outages across Mansfield school campuses on the day of the shooting. Cantu said the district’s WiFi network was overpowered and was not intentionally shut down.
Some parents questioned ongoing security measures at district campuses.
Preston Powell, whose daughter was next to the shooting, criticized what he believes is a continuing lack of security at Timberview. Powell said he had to bring his daughter’s phone to school on Monday and was able to walk right in after the students who keyed themselves into the building.
“I walked in, but what really got me the most: who was at the front door, who was monitoring it, who was sitting at the desk — students,” he said. “No one noticed me.”
On Oct. 13, Mansfield ISD announced heightened security measures including additional law enforcement on district campuses, randomized classroom checks for weapons and real time video surveillance monitoring high-traffic and common areas.
The district also implemented a temporary randomized security wanding of students.
One parent, who wrote his name as M.A. Hamzah on a speaker card, questioned the panel about whether the randomized checks would disproportionately target Black students.
Mansfield ISD Police Chief Greg Minter said the temporary wanding has been conducted by a third-party organization and not overseen by law enforcement.
Simpkins, who was released on bail Oct. 7, is on house arrest and must wear an ankle monitor under conditions of his bond. The court has ordered him to stay away from the school and the people who were shot.
Selby was released from the hospital on Saturday, his condition improving to “good” according to an update posted by the family on a GoFundMe fundraiser page.