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A growing number of students are leaving the Houston-area school district where 10 people were killed in a mass shooting in May.
Enrollment at the Santa Fe public school district has dropped by more than 4 percent this year, according to attendance figures obtained by the Houston Chronicle.
About 200 fewer students are attending the rural suburban district’s schools this year compared to the 2017-2018 school year. Half of the loss comes from Santa Fe High School, where authorities say a 17-year-old student fatally shot 10 people.
The district’s enrollment decrease isn’t an anomaly, as many other schools victimized by shootings have experienced similar exoduses.
Frank DeAngelis, the former principal at Columbine High School in Colorado, estimated that nearly 20 percent of students didn’t return to the school after two teenage shooters killed 13 people in 1999.
“A lot of it was really the parents. They were concerned,” DeAngelis said. “We did have students who were given the opportunity by our school district to go to other schools. A lot of kids were home-schooled because coming back to the building traumatized them.”
But the Santa Fe district is also dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Roughly 23 percent of students at the high school had their homes flooded or lost access to basic necessities following the devastating storm last year, according to data from the Texas Education Agency.
District spokeswoman Patti Hanssard said some families in the community still haven’t been able to return to their homes.
But only one of the six districts in Santa Fe’s immediate area saw an enrollment decline.
Santa Fe officials have acknowledged that the mass shooting may be the motivation behind many students leaving the district this year.
“We understand that families in our community are going through a very difficult healing and recovery process, and it will continue to take a very long time to work through these traumatic experiences and rebuild their lives,” Hanssard said. “Parents must make the best decisions for their students, and we support them in doing so.”
Santa Fe’s enrollment decrease could have lingering effects on the district’s budget after officials spent more than $2 million overhauling security infrastructure in the wake of the shooting. Texas distributes public school funding on a per-student basis.