Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar is warning parents about the dangers of THC vape pens, tying them to a number of shootings in recent months that prompted him to set up mobile task force units at two area schools.
“This is not your daddy’s weed,” he told Northside Independent School District parents at a safety meeting Thursday night. “The THC scares me, with its high concentration and potency. But that’s not as strong as what these kids are willing to do to each other for these drugs.”
A school task force organized by the sheriff’s office was launched at Northside’s Brennan High School and Southwest High School in the Southwest Independent School District. The task force has already arrested several students for allegedly possessing THC just four days after launching.
Salazar said it wasn’t clear why students are shooting each other in relation to the drugs, adding that on several occasions it looks like a student trying to rob others.
At least five recent incidents have ended in violence resulting from THC vape pens, Salazar told the San Antonio Report, including a homicide involving a Brennan High School student that occurred off-campus.
Another shooting that occurred off-campus in early February led to a school lockdown and a wide-ranging law enforcement response.
Ruben and Natalie Requejo, who have four children currently enrolled in the Northside district, said they have seen Brennan High School go downhill in recent years, with more fights, drug use and weapons on campus.
Those parents and many others asked for more to be done to protect children inside of the schools, which is controlled by Northside’s police department.
Summer Garcia, a former teacher and parent in the district, said she didn’t feel safe in the school, primarily because of a range of unsafe behavior occurring in the bathrooms ranging from fights to drug use.
Barry Perez, a Northside spokesman, said the concerns about the bathrooms hadn’t been reported to the district, noting that such incidents would be handled at the campus level.
The task force operates on the exterior of the schools unless there is an active threat, or they are invited onto campus, Salazar said. They can still have an impact, he added.
“The arrests that we’ve made have been drugs and guns that probably would have made it into a school somewhere had we not stopped it outside,” he said during a press conference after the meeting. “Based upon the metrics that I’ve seen just in the four days this task force has been running, we’re having a measurable effect and we’re moving the needle exactly like I thought we would.”
Salazar and other officials stressed the importance of locking car doors and properly securing firearms, noting that guns turning up in student’s hands often come from car burglaries.
The task force comes as districts across the state are on high alert amid ongoing gun violence and guns being brought on campus.
A student in Arlington, Texas, died after being shot outside of Lamar High School on Monday.
Just hours before the safety meeting Thursday, a fifth-grader at Kallison Elementary School in Northside was taken into custody after turning himself into a counselor with an unloaded firearm.
Southwest ISD, which will host a safety forum in the coming days, said the collaboration with the sheriff’s office will increase patrols and communication to prevent issues in the surrounding neighborhoods from spilling over onto school campuses.
Jennifer Collier, a spokeswoman for the district, said the partnership is in its early stages.
In addition to patrols, which will include uniformed and plainclothes officers, Collier said the district is planning to launch a PSA with the sheriff warning about the dangers of vaping.
“We’re also getting ready to launch a web page that discusses the dangers of vaping,” she said.
Collier told the San Antonio Report that the new initiative is a preventative measure, and the district has not seen any increase in gun-related issues or drug activity on its campuses.
Salazar said the ad-hoc task force is just a pilot program. After the school year is over, he said he plans to take data to the Bexar County Commissioners Court and ask for more funding to expand to other areas.