The Sept. 6 football game between Eastwood and Plano high schools in Plano has been canceled, a news release from the Plano ISD stated.
“After consulting with local law enforcement agencies, Plano ISD administrators felt obligated to prioritize the safety of the participating players, students, families and communities, and have concluded that the timing of the game falls too soon after the tragedy in El Paso,” said a news release from the Plano Independent School District.
The 21-year-old suspect in the Aug. 3 mass shooting at the Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall has been charged with capital murder and is being held without bond in El Paso. The shooting left 22 dead and 25 injured.
Federal officials have said they also are considering hate-crime and firearms charges against the suspect and consider the attack an act of domestic terrorism by a white supremacist. He is a former Plano Senior High School student, who graduated in 2017.
“We grieve with our neighbors in El Paso and are heartbroken that what is happening in society today is affecting our kids and our communities,” said Plano Superintendent Sara Bonser. “Our students and coaches were eager for this opportunity to come together with Eastwood High to promote a message of compassion and healing, but what should be a celebratory event would be encumbered by safety concerns for the participants and fans of both teams. Our top priority must be the safety of all.”
The game would have been the second year the two teams would have played; Eastwood played in Plano in 2018.
Eastwood coach Julio Lopez was looking for a top tier opponent to play on the road, as well as a chance to play in another part of Texas to experience the challenge of playing in a different type of atmosphere.
Ysleta Independent School District trustees became aware of the issue yesterday and learned that Plano officials had concerns about their ability to provide security at the football game.
The YISD offered to host the game in El Paso, but the Plano ISD rejected that idea. Then YISD offered to play at a neutral site, which Plano also rejected.
YISD trustee Kathryn Lucero said the El Paso community and its children are already suffering from the pain and trauma of the Aug. 3 shooting and a football game adds some normalcy to an otherwise difficult time. It’s the work of the YISD to make its students feel safe no matter where they are, she added.
“We don’t agree with the way this is being handled in Plano,” she said. “This is an opportunity for our districts to heal and be who we really are.”
“It’s not fair to the kids, who just want to play football. It’s really unfortunate that the Plano district is unable to stand up to the fear.”
Lucero said there is still a willingness to keep the game on the schools’ schedules.
Both El Paso Independent School District and Socorro Independent School District varsity football teams play teams from out of town but according to athletic department officials, no games have been cancelled.
YISD Superintendent Xavier De La Torre said there is hope that the game still can be played. He has reached out to the University Interscholastic League, which is the governing body of high school sports in Texas, and the office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also is aware of the situation.
“The Eastwood and Plano game is important to our community and our kids and it would have given both communities the opportunity to unite and be together,” said De La Torre, who has been in contact with Plano officials since Monday. “High school football gives communities the opportunity to come together and share that time together.”
Plano Senior High School Principal Sarah Watkins stated in a news release: “Last year we had such a great experience hosting Eastwood High, and we were looking forward to continuing this new tradition. The booster clubs of the respective teams had begun working together on efforts to promote unity and healing, and to show support for the El Paso community. Plano Senior High will continue efforts to raise support. Our entire school community felt strongly about showing love and support for the people of El Paso, and I am grateful for the opportunity to continue that outreach.”
Felix F. Chavez may be reached at 546-6167; email@example.com; @Fchavezeptimes on Twitter.
Staff writer Aaron Montes contributed to this report.