Texas Father in Woman's Viral School Photo 'Sparking Some Sort of Change'

A father in Killeen, Texas, unable to sleep after Tuesday's mass shooting in Uvalde, is standing guard outside his daughter's elementary school, easing the minds of other worried parents.

A photo of Ed Chelby standing vigilantly outside Saegert Elementary has been widely circulated online, reports KWTX. Parents have reacted with gratitude and relief to Chelby's effort following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two educators dead.

"You don't know if you should send your kid to school," he told the station, echoing other parents' anxiety that their school could be targeted next. "You want them to get their education and their experience of the last days of school, but you want to protect them with everything you got."

After the shooting, a troubled Chelby sent an email to the superintendent at Killeen Independent School District asking if he could stand outside the elementary school, where his wife works as a nurse, to keep an eye on its main entrance, according to the station.

School Outside
A father in Killeen, Texas, is standing outside his daughter's elementary school. His presence has been reassuring to other parents. Above, the exterior of a typical American school building is shown. littleny/Getty Images

Chelby, who has 11 years' experience in the U.S. Army and a security background, said he was confident he could keep the building safe by standing outside unarmed while easing parents' anxiety, reports KWTX.

He had already applied to volunteer at the school and his background check was underway when he approached the superintendent with the idea, according to the station. Chelby said he didn't expect the district to sign off on the idea, but now he watches the school's front door.

"I've had a lot of emotional people come up to me," Chelby told the station. "They didn't want to send their kids to school. They struggled with sending their kids to school."

Eli Lopez, principal of Saegert Elementary, told Newsweek in an email the response to Chelby's effort has been overwhelmingly appreciative for restoring some sense of security. He said parents have offered to drop off something to drink, and a mother approached him in tears to thank him for helping make her and her child feel safe while at school.

"A child should never have to worry for their safety as they come in to school and Mr. Chelby helped ensure that sense of security the last two days of school after a horrific tragedy," said Lopez.

Samantha Longfeather-Locke, the mother of a student at Saegert, was among Killeen parents grateful to Chelby.

"Him standing in front of the school, that's reassuring—feeling that we get to go home and see our families this summer," Longfeather-Locke told KWTX. "The world needed to know what he was doing because I feel that, that's sparking some sort of change to start."

Chelby's effort has drawn positive feedback online.

"Please say thanks to this fine gentleman that volunteered today to stand watch at a Texas school," Twitter user Blue Starr said in a tweet. "We need more like him."

Lopez said another parent, a veteran mom, has also volunteered by keeping a watch on the back of the school.

"As I took time to check on them and express my personal appreciation, they both expressed the simple act they felt they were taking on of being present as the least they could do," said Lopez. "I was humbled that they demonstrated what it is to be part of the village that cares for each other. Neither one chose this task for recognition."

Other parents have volunteered for a safety program for the next school year, said Lopez.

Killeen is a city of about 156,000, north of Austin and nearly four hours away from Uvalde, which saw the worst school shooting since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The shooting has reopened a fraught debate over gun control and how to prevent future tragedies. But people from outside Uvalde have reached out, helping raise funds for the family of a slain teacher. Survivors Empowered, an organization set up to help survivors of other mass shootings, is also planning a visit to Uvalde.

Chelby could not be reached by Newsweek Thursday evening for comment.

Update 5/27/22, 4:45 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with comment from Saegert Elementary.