by Lady Justice
There is no worse feeling than sending your kid’s to school and on a random day in May you are alerted that there is an active shooter at your child’s school. The blood leaves your body, your stomach is in knots while you watch the news as you desperately call your child, hoping they answer than you hang up in a panic because if they are in the area you don’t want to reveal their location. So, you wait, you stare at the phone every 5 seconds praying to god that they will call. No, I am wrong there is a worse feeling, you are getting a text from your child that says,
“I love you, there is a shooter in my classroom. If I don’t make it out alive, know that I love you and thank you for being the best mom. I’m turning my phone off and hiding, please pray.”
That’s exactly what parents in Santa Fe and the surrounding areas went through as a gunman entered the school, through the art hall with a shot gun and a revolver. In the six months since May 18th we have desperately investigated the why? How could this happen. Yes, one troubled kid sits in a protective custody awaiting trial. One troubled 17-year-old, who attended Santa Fe High School most of his life took 10 lives including 8 students and 2 teachers and injured 13 more while leaving 20 witnesses who lived through the ordeal, but he didn’t harm. This isn’t a big crowded school that you walk the halls and barely know anyone there. This is a small rural community that everyone knows everyone, and they all grew up together. It’s the ultimate betrayal. However, who let this happen? How did this happen? As these shootings seem to be more frequent, we can no longer ignore that there must be a deeper problem here.
Blame the parents? Do you know everything your teenage child does every second of every day? Blame guns? This specific shooter used guns that could be found in most Texas homes. Blame mental health? Unlike other shooters this one didn’t have a criminal record or any previous mental health issues. The original news reports from the County Judge Mark Henry and Governor Abbott said that no one could have predicted this.
As these shootings seem to keep happening, we can see similarities, as well as differences. This specific shooter tried to mimic what the Columbine shooters in Colorado did in 1999. There were some defiant behaviors that were apparent long before the shooting happened that should have been addressed but were ignored. The fact he wore a trench coat to school every day, even in over 100-degree weather, despite it being against the school dress code and that coat had pins that would signify a kid who identified with neo Nazi beliefs, still nothing was said about this. He attempted to make pipe bombs that he hides around town, to delay first responders, just like the boys at Columbine. How can a school of adults see a kid every day and not see anything wrong?
An environment that grows a home-grown terrorist.
Santa Fe Texas is a small country town tucked in the corner of Southeast Texas and located in Galveston, CO. On the surface it’s quiet and quant, a place away from big city life with all the small-town charm. Many of the residents have been there for generations, others relocate there to raise their children in a more laid-back life away from the chaos of big city life. It’s a town full of tradition and pride, but not all those traditions would be considered sources of pride to the rest of the world. The Klan is alive and well in Santa Fe Texas, so much so that black people living in area towns refuse to drive through. A town that proudly flies their rebel flags, they love God, football, beer, boots, buckles and guns and they don’t have much tolerance for outsiders or people who are different than what they were raised knowing.
The school is the biggest employer. An environment that if you don’t fit the status quo of the town, you will likely be subjected to ruthless bullying not only by the students but also by the teachers and coaches. Unfortunately for the outsider, like many small- town schools, the facility is usually made up of the popular kids from generations before. The kids who peaked in high school, married their high school sweethearts, got a job in the town they were raised in and start their families. Chances are the teachers and coaches grew up with the popular kid’s parents and probably are still friends. Although they may have received a basic degree, their lack of exposure to the outside world does make them uneducated to things that are different than what they are used to. Not every child, even if born and raised in this environment will fit the mold of perfection they have designed. You will always have kids that are slightly different.
A flawed system
Policies that protect the bully and punish the victim fuel anger and rage in a young mind. The way things work is a popular teacher can call a student out, in front of the class, everyone laughs, before you know it the entire school is engaging in this name calling. It follows you through the halls, to social media, it hurts. One day someone takes it too far and after months of the bullying you lash out, stand up for yourself and you are now being sent to the office and being issued 3 days of ISS for standing up for yourself. Meanwhile nothing happens to the bullies. Their behavior continues, and the victim keeps getting victimized. All that pain festers inside the victim and builds. Not everyone who is bullied is going to lash out in violence or commit suicide. However, you never know what is going on in a person’s mind. If they have some underlying defect that being subjected to relentless hate may cause them to lash out in rage or violence. The administration would rather ignore the issues than deal with them. They would rather report no incidences of bullying, than accept there is a problem. Even teachers are subjected to impossible situations, being attacked by a student and sending them to the office only having to let them come back to class the next day. Completely taking their ability to control the situation from them.
A student who survived the Texas school shooting has spoken out about the accused gunman, saying that he was ’emotionally bullied’ by his classmates and coaches.
Dustin Severin, an 11th-grade student at Santa Fe High School, says that the suspected shooter, 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtiz, was constantly tormented at school, but that he believed it never escalated into anything physical.
“I know he’s picked on by coaches and other students. He didn’t really talk to anyone,” he told the station. “My friends from the football team told me that coaches said he smelled, like, right in front of his face. And other kids would look at him and laugh at him … nothing like physical but they still emotionally bullied him.”
“I never thought he would just snap and shoot up the school,” Severin added. “He didn’t seem like he was a hateful person.”
There were signs.
Santa Fe high has had issues for many years. They live in a state of denial and complacency. Even if you see something is wrong, saying something would make you the target. As a staff member that could mean losing, your job. So, it’s gone with the flow, or keep your head down and shut up. Families of kid’s that don’t fit in have reported these issues to the administration for years and nothing has been done. In one incidence a local couple who also worked as substitutes for the school adopted black siblings, they tried raising them in a rural environment with family values and God. They ended up having to remove them because one of the boys was bullied so bad for being black a group of the kids said they were going to kill him, because he was black. Numerous families had reported bullying by coaches in the months before the shooting. Not your typical we are hard on you to make you better behavior. Singling out kid’s and taunting them, ridiculing them and making their lives a living hell. One boy the coach made him run as he drove his truck behind him yelling and screaming at him. These reports were filed the fall before the shooting and still haven’t had any resolution. Several kids dropped out because of the bullying issues that were not addressed in the fall of 2017. In January of 2018 a young student at the high school killed himself behind being bullied. Very little was discussed about this. In February, weeks after the shooting in Parkland, there was a false alarm. It was terrifying, these kids were locked down for hours not knowing what was happening. The girl at the center of it was put in protective custody, not because she made a threat but because online bullies took a picture of her from her social media account, she was holding a gun, and they made a fake post claiming she was going to shoot up the school. That post quickly spread causing hysteria and panic. Only for the real shooting to happen in May. How could they not have seen the problems? Why weren’t they proactive on taking a hard look at the environment they are creating?
Reading this may shock you, but when you realize that the school board and superintend have shown no remorse, no compassion to the families. They are constantly disrespectful to the victims’ families at school board meetings. Even silenced the husband of one of the survivors for announcing the names of the victims at a meeting. They sit behind their podium and make smug faces, even roll their eyes when issues are addressed and remain in a place that is completely indifferent. However, this behavior wouldn’t surprise you, if you knew that two of the school board members have violent criminal histories. One of the two publicly attacked a victim’s mother for having a different opinion than the town. It won’t surprise you if you join the town talk page where they regular call people out and bully people and make this their daily fun, all because they disagree with what the mob says.
Inmate Number 394408
How does a young kid with his entire life ahead of him get to a place that he causes so much chaos, pain and devastation, throwing his entire life away? He grew up in Santa Fe, went to school with these kids his entire life. They played together, they cried together, and his early years showed no signs of anything different about him until he got to high school. High school is that time kids change, they start finding themselves and kids who were once best friends no longer speak to each other. By all accounts the shooter seemed to be a mostly normal teen. He played football, had his group of friends, was involved in his church, on the surface an average kid. Something changed. Sometime between his freshman and Junior year he started showing signs of being withdrawn. His attire changed, and he started wearing a trench coat and boots. He became more distant and isolated in the months leading up to the shooting. He was on lockdown in February during the false alarm. He cried and worried with is classmates while they waited to see what was happening, only to become the monster a few months later.
He was being bullied, by coaches and students. Daily being called a school shooter because of how he dressed, attire that was against school dress code but was allowed. His parents are from Greece, his father barley speaks English. They are heavily involved in their community but because they are Greek Orthodox and not Southern Baptist like the rest of the town he was heavily bullied for his faith. Towards the end he started a relationship with a girl. They spoke every day, when the students at the high school found out about it their relationship, they started bullying her. His parents reported the bullying, his friends confirmed that the shooter was one of the kids the coaches would single out and humiliated.
His dad saw the signs of something being wrong. He was worried his son was going to kill himself. He even took off work for 2 weeks prior to the shooting. He had no idea that his son was planning to do the unthinkable. May 18th started like any other Friday morning, no one knew a kid they have known their entire lives was plotting and stewing and boiling with rage and anger. He loaded a shot gun and a revolver. He hides the shotgun under his trench coat that he wore every day and entered the art hall. He opened fired on a class of unsuspecting art students. As the students ran to find a place to hide, some students died trying to protect others. The shooter taunted the scared kids hiding in a closet as their cell phones went off, while scared parents learning about the shooting tried to reach their children. He took 10 lives that day and injured 13 more. He let others live. “I didn’t kill the people I like so they could tell my story”.
The police responded rapidly and engaged the shooter. An officer was injured in the standoff. Eventually the shooter surrendered and was taken into custody. At 17 years old he caused so much pain, changed so many lives and broke the heart of a town. As we await the trial, he sits in protective custody in Galveston County jail. Maybe the trial will tell the story, maybe it will help us understand. One child pulled the trigger but did the environment raise a home-grown terrorist? We need to open our eyes.
Stay tuned I will be back next week with eyewitness accounts of what has been happening for years and possibly made the 17-year-old shooter snap.