I am a parent of 2 children at Tippin Elementary and I wanted to ask what are the district and city going to do about the dangerous conditions and safety violations at and around the schools during pickup and drop-offs.
I witnessed and have dash cam video proof of a dangerous and reckless driver, who on that day was driving erratically, almost side swiped a car on the opposing lane, crossed into opposing traffic, drove into opposing traffic and crashed into the school gate, not once, but twice, while there were children all around and behind the gate. He was allowed to pick up his child and leave school grounds. There was a witness stating he saw a drink in his hand when he approached the driver after he crashed.
The very same night 10/26, I uploaded and sent the video to Tippin Principal Gina Nunez and Board member Freddy Klayel Avalos, who both assured me something was going to be done. I also called the El Paso Police Department where I was assured that someone would come out and investigate.
The NEXT day 10/27, this driver was videotaped in the school pickup line, driving with his sunshades up. Multiple parents have seen him drive on the wrong side of the road on several occasions as well with the sunshades up in pickup lines as well as inside the school parking lot. I spoke with Mrs. Nunez who told me that El Paso ISD police already took a report, but that if I was concerned I should contact Mr. Manny Chavira. I told her that I had already called the El Paso police and I called them to follow up. I found out then that there were 2 different police departments in El Paso. One for the schools and one for the community. El Paso Police stated that they did NOT send someone out as promised and that they have no jurisdiction since it happened on school grounds.
I followed up and called and emailed Mr. Chavira. He told me that they’re investigating and has Officer Tatum(sp) at Franklin High school assigned to the case. I also spoke with him. Between the two of the officers, what I understood was that they are investigating the driver for crashing into the gate, but that they don’t have authority over the streets (Bear Ridge where he drove into oncoming traffic). El Paso police are stating they don’t have authority to charge since it happened on school grounds. Apparently we only have 1 EPISD police officer (Officer Tatum) to monitor 17 schools on the Westside and only 32 officers in the entire EPISD police to monitor all the EPISD schools, they have lost 12 officers so far. Because of this officer shortage, they cannot be there at all times during pickup and drop-offs.
I implored Mr. Chavira to send someone out since we feel unsafe as this is the same parking lot where a mom DIED and 3 kids were injured. I witnessed on Thursday, which is the day after the incident, the driver driving with the shades up, alongside another driver who ran over safety cones to park in the restricted area for the buses. One of the teachers had to approach the driver to tell them to move but he doesn’t have the authority to cite or issue anything beside warnings. Our teachers and staff and volunteers are amazing and do their best to keep the kids safe but they aren’t police officers, which are needed. My footage can’t be used as the incident needs to be witnessed by an officer to cite for traffic violations. So how are we to feel safe knowing that dangerous situations are occurring and we don’t have any way to hold them responsible? The driver of the vehicle in the video is still allowed to come on school grounds.
Mr. Chavira sent some officers on Thursday and Friday morning and afternoon, and I met the Chief Quality Officer Alan Wiernicki. He stated to me and another mom that he hadn’t seen the video until her husband showed it to him and came out as soon as possible. We appreciate him and Mrs. Nunez trying to assess the situation, but he stated that he believed it was a “parent” issue and that the PTA should hold a meeting to discuss safety. He said that Mrs. Nunez could ask for a crossing guard, but they wouldn’t have any power to cite or hold the violators responsible, which our admin and staff who are helping with school pickups and drop-offs are currently having the same issues with. He stated that if EPISD police was shorthanded, maybe they can work something out with El Paso police to fill in during pickups and drop-offs. I left the conversation thinking that there were going to be officers here at the school moving forward and that we would also host a parent meeting to address concerns and also bring it to the community’s attention the safety issues.
On Monday morning 11/1, I saw police pulling people over during a school pickup and it was sad, but made me feel safer knowing that they were being proactive in making sure the area was on alert since it was a school zone. That afternoon however, there weren’t any police that I could see and I saw another violator drive through the cones and park again in the restricted bus area. I emailed Mr. Chavira with the photos and hasn’t heard back.
This is an ongoing concern and after reading about the parent death and children injured at Tippin in 2018 and then the 2 children injured and 1 child dead at Oran Roberts in 2019, where both cases had witnesses, but no police at the scene until after, and no one was charged. Articles HERE and HERE
Are we just waiting around until the next preventable death? Is this a systemic trend that EPISD, EPISD police, El Paso police and the City of El Paso is creating in this environment, with willful and wanton knowledge that injuries and deaths have occurred in the recent past, yet still no action? I, as a parent, don’t want to see or hear about another preventable traffic related death in the school zones. I, as a taxpayer, don’t want to be on the hook the next time an injury or death occurs and the district is sued for not taking action, especially after having video footage of unsafe drivers in and around our school grounds. I want to not only prevent that from happening, but making sure that our children, our staff, and parents are in a safe environment when they are dropping kids off or picking kids up.
What can we as concerned parents and the community as a whole do to make it a safe environment, where children and adults are not injured and killed by motorists? We want to work alongside our hardworking school staff/admin, our school board, and the El Paso ISD police and El Paso Police, but we parents keep getting the run around and people with the authority to do something and are tasked with our safety are just giving excuses and pointing to each other’s various departments. Parents have already protested and alerted the Board members in the past HERE
Here are some other parents speaking out about not only this incident but other incidents, where one child was run over RECENTLY and nothing was done. THREAD IS HERE
The screenshots of the incidents are HERE and HERE
Where does the buck stop? Who is the one ultimately responsible for making sure our schools are safe?
Thank you for your help!
Telemundo covered it HERE
KTSM coverage is HERE