SANTA FE, Texas – Students from other school districts gathered along Highway 6 in front of Santa Fe High School on Tuesday where students are returning to the campus for the first time since a deadly shooting made national headlines.
About a dozen teens held posters that read “#TexasStrong. Welcome back!” and “Kingwood Loves Santa Fe.”
They were soon joined by other members of the community, young and old, hoping to comfort students as they arrived by bus.
Tuesday was an emotional day at the campus. At 10 a.m. students were scheduled to gather inside the school to honor the victims.
The school district says there won’t be any tests or assignments to finish the school year. Instead, the rest of the year is focused on the emotional needs of the kids.
Governor Greg Abbott spoke at the school about security on Tuesday. Bree Butler, a senior at Santa Fe High, went to school to hear what he had to say.
She said she left campus that afternoon feeling disappointed.
"His exact words were, 'I have a plan that I'm releasing tomorrow.' But that's it. That's all he expanded on." Butler said.
She, along with other Santa Fe High School students, say they're open to stepped up security measures – including metal detectors and metal plates in classroom doors -- to stop bullets from piercing.
And they'd like to see more armed officers at school, but not armed teachers.
"The officers are trained for their job. That's what they're for, they signed up for that. Teenagers did not sign up to have a gun in the classroom." said Butler.
"I don't feel safe around guns and if there is, that's more guns for a teenager to access." said Megan McGuire, a junior at Santa Fe High.
Several Santa Fe and Houston students say they’re working with local lawmakers, to draft their own legislation, calling for moderate gun reforms. They want firearms to be required to be locked away from school-aged children.
“Kids are scared to be in schools,” says 16 year-old Marcel McClinton, who lives in the Memorial area of Houston. McClinton says he’s forming an organization called, “Generation Orange.”
Orange is the symbolic color of gun violence. Group members say they’ve already met with top brass at the Houston Police Department, to explore how students can better prepare for mass shootings.
They think including evacuation drills, not just lock-downs, are critical to practice, in case of active shooter situations.
“You turn the lights off and you sit at the desk, or along the classroom wall, and a shooter comes through and spray you all with bullets at once, and you’re dead. You have no chance to survive,” says McClinton.
On Tuesday, there was only one entrance and one exit at the high school. Walls were also built in the last week to close off classrooms affected by the shooting.
Additional counseling was also offered throughout the day.