Several parents in an Iowa town where a deadly school shooting took place earlier this month told school officials on Monday they want more preventative measures and transparency as the school board plans for students’ return.
Their comments came during a Perry school board meeting, the day after the death of Principal Dan Marburger, who was critically injured in the shooting.
Grace Castro criticized the school district’s policies, saying that “lives were lost due to our lack of preventative measures.” She suggested the installation of metal detectors at schools’ entrances and a temporary remote learning option at the same time, and enforcement of a clear-bag policy as “the absolute least you can do.”
Her comments echoed what many other many other parents — including some of the victims’ families — have been saying on the Perry Facebook page since the district first announced its reopening plan last week.
Mark Drahos also asked the board for more preventative measures. But he noted that school officials won’t be able to please everybody. He said he discussed ideas with a school board member, including a single-point entry to buildings, a no-bag policy and additional security such as hall monitors.
Joseph Swanson said, “I understand the solution to this problem is not an easy fix if it even can truly be fixed. But an enhancement of security measures and mental health well-being needs to be addressed.”
Monday’s meeting had been postponed from Sunday because of Marburger’s death.
His body will be escorted back to Perry on Tuesday from where he had been hospitalized in Des Moines. His family has encouraged community members to line the route to welcome him back home. Funeral services are pending.
The attack began in the shared middle and high school cafeteria, where students were eating breakfast before class on their first day back from winter break. The shooting continued outside the cafeteria, but it was contained to the north end of the joint middle and high school building.
Sixth-grader Ahmir Jolliff, 11, was killed, and seven others were wounded, including Marburger, two other school staff members and four students.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety said Marburger “acted selflessly and placed himself in harm’s way in an apparent effort to protect his students.” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered all flags lowered to half-staff in honor of Marburger until sunset on the day of his funeral and interment. She also encouraged people, business, schools and local governments to do the same.
The district’s reopening plan is on hold until further notice both because of the parent concerns about safety and security and because of Marburger’s death. School officials are seeking the expertise of law enforcement and safety experts, according to a school district Facebook post on Monday. The district plans to have uniformed officers on site as students transition back to school. The district continues to offer counseling services. Middle and high school students’ extracurricular competitions resume Tuesday as the district begins to ease back into its normal schedule.
The last injured student was released from the hospital Sunday, so everyone who was injured in the shooting, with the exception of Marburger, has now been able to return home to Perry, according to Facebook posts of victims’ family members.
The 17-year-old student who opened fire died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot. Authorities said the suspect, identified as Dylan Butler, had a pump-action shotgun and a small-caliber handgun. Authorities also found and rendered safe a rudimentary, improvised explosive device in his belongings.
An obituary for Butler that was published in the local newspaper Friday said Dylan loved the outdoors and had a great sense of humor. He was a picky eater who favored macaroni and cheese, pizza and buffalo wings. The article didn’t make any mention of the shooting but said the family plans a private burial. Many members of the Perry community have taken the unexpected step of offering their condolences to Butler’s family since the shooting.
In comments read aloud on her behalf at the school board meeting, Ahmir Jolliff’s mother, Erica Jolliff, asked that Butler not be referred to as a school shooter or a murderer.
“He has a name, and it is Dylan. By not treating him as a person, allowing bullying and calling him names rather than Dylan potentially triggered the events that happened on Jan. 4,” she said. She also called on the school district to review the events from start to finish and come up with safety procedures to ensure other shootings don’t happen.
Associated Press reporter Josh Funk contributed from Omaha, Nebraska.